Detractors were boisterous and forceful Wednesday with their complaints about the NCAA's new rule changes, rightfully asserting that the reform did little to directly address the prominent problems revealed by last year's FBI investigation.
College basketball assistants were accused of taking money to steer players to agents. Apparel companies allegedly funneled cash to recruits in hopes that the players would eventually sign deals with them. Louisville's Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino, lost his job.
News flash: In a big-money system, a shady underbelly formed.
NCAA leaders are aware.
But they do seem reluctant to admit that many recruits (even as high schoolers) have a free-market value which eclipses the perks and benefits that college athletics can currently provide. Why else would coaches, agents and businessmen take such great care to secretly offer up their monetary resources to players?
So the NCAA's solutions will be, at this time, incremental in nature. Extremely incremental.
Which, for those involved in the game, isn't the worst thing. At least something is being done, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
"I think it's a step in the right direction, I really do," McDermott said. "I still think there's more questions than answers but at least this is something to work off of."
It's just that, well, the work is nowhere near complete.
What's next? Here are five things that still need to be addressed:
1. The NCAA will hope and pray that the NBA, USA Basketball and the major shoe companies remain on board.
The NCAA is asking a lot here of outside entities. Dan Gavitt, vice president for men's basketball, said Wednesday that the NCAA has been in "almost weekly" contact with these folks. Uhhh... is that so? Because it seems like many of NCAA's proposals are a long way from becoming reality.
» The NCAA still needs the NBA to eliminate the one-and-done rule (we are at least three years from that). And the NBA must alter its system for undrafted free agents. And since the NBA combine is crucial to the NCAA's new plan — combine participants can return to school if they're undrafted — it'll need the league to keep administering that event the same way.
» The NCAA wants USA Basketball to authoritatively determine which high school recruits are "elite" enough to earn agent representation. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that USA Basketball isn't ready to do that. ... Oh, and USA Basketball also has to play a central role in running this new end-of-July nationwide camp that'll feature 2,000-plus recruits.
» Shoe companies. Here's what the NCAA needs, according to president Mark Emmert: "How can we structure contractual relationships between you as (apparel) providers and partners with universities to make sure that we have some guarantees that you all are being aware of and being compliant with the rules of the NCAA and other best business practices?" ... Pretty sure the NCAA has been asking that same question for years. We'll see how it works out this time.
2. Provide clarity on agents.
The NCAA plans to run its own agent certification process by 2020, which it hopes will deter nefarious behavior. If you break rules, you get decertified. And college players will be allowed only to deal with certified agents. Consider Nebraska coach Tim Miles as one of the skeptics. "We're going to have to monitor the agent involvement," he said.
One thing that's important to note is that the NCAA still won't allow its eligible players to enter into financial agreements with agents. At this point, the relationship would be about advice and guidance. In the future, agents will be allowed to pay for minimal expenses (meals and transportation) — but an agent law adopted by 42 states (including Nebraska) needs to be amended first.
3. Fill in the details.
There are questions about the administrative and logistical specifics with seemingly every new rule. But we'll focus here on perhaps the most significant change for college basketball coaching staffs: the adjusted recruiting structure.
What if you have no interest in attending the NBPA's camp for its top-100 prospects? Does that count against your available recruiting days? UNO coach Derrin Hansen would like to know.
"In the past, I felt comfortable in the summer that you could see enough kids — incoming seniors and juniors — against quality competition to get the proper evaluation," Hansen said. "But how many days are out there now, for a team like us?"
Let's quickly tell the recruiting story of local talent Teddy Allen, who signed with West Virginia but has since transferred to Wichita State.
He played for Bob Franzese's Omaha Sports Academy during the summer before his senior year of high school. Allen's stock skyrocketed after he dazzled at the Fab 48 summer tournament in Las Vegas. Major scholarship offers poured in.
But with fewer windows for coaches to watch AAU/grassroots hoops, will tales like Allen's be told less often?
Said Franzese: "Nebraska players have thrived on team basketball. ... And they're proving themselves against the best of the best. (College coaches) want to see what you can do against these top players."
Performing well at a skills camp or starring as the undeniably best player on a high school team just does not resonate as much as dominating a talent-rich AAU event.
4. Speaking of high school teams... who's running these regional events, again?
The NCAA will allow its coaches to spend two weekends in June at regional tournaments that are sanctioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations — but organized locally? Seems confusing.
Said McDermott: "So the eight teams in Des Moines might get together and have a shootout at Valley High School, but is that something that's certified by the coaches' association?"
Certainly it requires an enormous amount of planning (and sorting out) over the next 10 months.
Franzese would definitely be interested in an big event here, but he's not sure if he can even be involved. Is it just high school sites only?
"If all the coaches bought in, I think it'll be really neat to have the top high school teams from Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas City, Omaha, Denver all playing — and we're right in the middle of it," Franzese said. "Obviously Omaha's a great amateur sports town."
5. Keep actively looking to improve the game.
It would be a shame if the NCAA decides simply to pat itself on the back and relax after this. Even if most of the new rule changes end up impacting just a small number of players/programs, they are a result of an earnest attempt to better the sport.
Legislative actions that normally take two years were executed in a matter of months. Hopefully that zeal doesn't dissipate.
One of the proposals that did not pass was the allowance for additional staff to coach college players during the summer. If a program's head coach and his assistants are on the road recruiting, who's back home instructing the squad? You get four hours per week to work with players over the summer. Why not let directors of operation or video coordinators or player personnel directors run offseason practices? Players would benefit. Staffers would get extra experience.
That's just one example. There are countless ways to help college basketball evolve. The NCAA seems willing to examine them — perhaps if only by force, courtesy of the FBI. But we'll take it. Maintain that urgency!
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