NCAA leaders and legislators have a set of recommendations from the independent committee they convened last fall to help address corruption in college basketball.
But can these proposed changes make a difference?
That was the much-debated topic after Wednesday’s announcement, which immediately prompted critics to insist that the FBI’s revelations of an extensive bribery scandal in September were birthed by the sport’s broken financial structure.
Condoleeza Rice, the chair of the 12-member Commission on College Basketball, admitted Wednesday that the NCAA can’t immediately fix every problem, but she said a step in a different direction was needed.
“The current sad state of college basketball did not appear overnight and it will not be repaired quickly,” Rice said. “We need to put the ‘college’ back in college basketball.”
But the NCAA will need help.
The commission recommended that the NBA abolish its one-and-done rule and allow high school kids to skip college altogether to enter the draft. The panel asked for more financial transparency from apparel companies, who help fund AAU teams and tournaments. It suggested the NCAA partner with USA Basketball to restructure the entire summer circuit.
There was no call to pay players a salary. Nor did the committee address the possibility of athletes earning compensation for their name and likeness — Rice said the NCAA should revisit its rules regarding that issue once legal cases are settled.
“Our focus has been to strengthen the collegiate model, not to move toward one that brings aspects of professionalism into the game,” she said.
But there were actionable items that the committee thinks the NCAA can evaluate immediately. President Mark Emmert said in a joint statement that the process of implementing these changes will begin now.
Ultimately it’s up to the schools — specifically, presidents, athletic administrators and coaches — to clean up the sport, Rice said.
“When those institutions and those responsible for leading them short-circuit rules, ethics and norms in order to achieve on-court success, they alone are responsible,” Rice said. “Too often, these individuals hide behind (the NCAA), when they are the ones most responsible for the degraded state of intercollegiate athletics in general, and college basketball in particular.”
Here are eight notable recommendations put forth by the commission Wednesday:
1. Eliminate the one-and-done rule: This is out of the NCAA’s hands. It’s an NBA policy. You can’t enter the draft until you’re 19 or one year removed from high school. If the NBA doesn’t change the rule, the committee suggested that the NCAA consider making freshmen ineligible or forcing programs to hold a roster spot for multiple seasons even if a player turns pro.
2. Allow undrafted players to return to school: According to ESPN, there are 181 non-seniors who’ve declared for the 2018 draft. There are 60 total draft picks. A majority of those underclassmen will return to school, but some won’t. And many will go undrafted. Currently, players lose their eligibility if they do not commit to returning to school by the end of May. The committee wants to change that.
3. Issue NCAA certification to sports agents: The NCAA would develop its own standards for accreditation, but once that criteria is established, it could allow for more contact between players and agents. Even at the high school level. The thought is that agents who break rules — offer incentives or exploit athletes — would be discredited. Athletes who make deals with those agents will subsequently lose their eligibility.
4. Help departed athletes pay to finish their degrees: If the mission is to educate, schools need to be better at it. Some institutions already have these sorts of programs in place for their athletes. The committee recommended that the NCAA standardize the process and create a fund to help lower-budget athletic departments. If a player is in school for two years and leaves in good standing, he shouldn’t have to pay to finish his degree, according to the commission.
5. Enhance rule enforcement practices and increase punishments
Said Rice: “Today’s current state where an entire community knows of significant rule breaking? And yet the governance body lacks the power or the will to investigate? This breeds cynicism and it breeds contempt.” The commission says NCAA needs independent enforcers to crack down on individuals who break rules. Coaches should be contractually obligated to comply with NCAA investigations. Punishments as harsh as a five-year postseason ban should be established.
6. Certify AAU events
The NCAA should require AAU coaches, event organizers and corporate sponsors to disclose detailed financial records regarding their tournaments. If the event isn’t certified, than NCAA coaches can’t attend. Additionally, the committee said the NCAA should work with USA Basketball and, by 2019, establish a camp/combine to take place in July, which just so happens to be one of the sport’s most critical recruiting windows.
7. Require more transparency from apparel companies: Rice said the commission would be sending letters to major apparel companies’ board of directors and ask for increased “transparency and accountability efforts.” Adidas was at the center of the bribery scandal revealed by the FBI (employees funneled money to recruits to steer them to Adidas-sponsored schools and increased the likelihood that they’d sign with Adidas upon turning pro).
8. Restructure NCAA’s highest decision-making board: The NCAA’s Board of Governors is a 20-member body comprised mostly of presidents. That’s fine, according to the committee. But that group also needs outside influence. Rice said most non-profits appoint members of the public to their boards to increase objectivity and perspective. The commission suggested that the NCAA add five independent members to the Board of Governors.