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Changing Eligibility Standards Could Lead to 'Outbreak' of Basketball Academies

The NCAA is focused on making athletes learn as far back as freshman year in high school. Could that mean a rise in a new system of education at the prep level?
The NCAA is focused on making athletes learn as far back as freshman year in high school. Could that mean a rise in a new system of education at the prep level?

When it comes to the NCAA, there is always a lot of moaning and groaning when changes are made. There are those that think the organization is too strict and that the rulebook comes with too many insanely minor infractions that are just waiting to curtail a promising athlete's career.

There seems some truth to that.

There is also the side of the organization that is supposed to make sure that athletes are coming to school to actually go to school. Things like attending class and potentially graduating with a degree in something other than "Gym Rat" should be good things.

But it seems that even when the NCAA attempts to do the hard work of making athletes accountable for classwork, they still get slammed on multiple sides (Hello APR penalties).

The latest attempt by the NCAA to crack down on the education side will start with the incoming freshman class of 2016. The effects of the new rules won't be felt until 2015, when a class of seniors is realizing that maybe they should have studied for four years instead of one if they hoped to play basketball or football at the next level.

Reaction is mixed. Obviously there hasn't been a lot of time to get the word out, especially with high schools starting in less than a month.

And at many schools, there is already a lot of work going into making sure athletes can get out onto the court. The headaches might only increase once the students that fall under this rule are entering college.

Most shocking has to be the numbers cited, especially in some of the bigger cities in the country. ESPN's story said New York had a 37 percent denial rate on eligibility. Philadelphia was almost half at 44 percent. There is a major issue with the education system in this country if that is the type of person these schools are turning out.

It isn't like the rules are that difficult to understand right now. The core courses seem like things that every student should have their fair share of: Math, English, Social Studies, Science.

There might be problems in the implementation though, and that is where the gaps exist. As Dana O'Neil pointed out in her piece on the arm of the NCAA that polices the shortcuts that schools attempt to take, there is a big difference in what schools "teach" under those headings.

There is a reason that the number of charter schools in the country has been on the rise. There is a reason that we see more and more athletes having to take a year at a prep school, or headed off to junior college instead of a four-year institution. The NCAA is trying to fix that problem earlier, something they should probably be applauded for in the long run.

What the NCAA is attempting to do makes sense, but what will be the consequences in the long run? I personally can see a major change in the way that basketball is conducted at the high school level.

I am not even sure that the change will be a bad one, just one that comes with its own set of issues and new ways of dealing with recruiting.

Picture the world in 2015, when there is a rash of players who didn't get their 10 credits of the required 16 done during their first three years in high school. There will be a lot of parents unhappy with the results.

There will be schools ready for the change -- a lot of schools are already doing the work to get their students and athletes prepared -- but there will be a large number of schools that haven't been on top of it.

I am mainly looking at the big cities. We might have magnet schools that still turn out some of the better basketball players getting it right. After all, they are supposed to be better institutions in their own communities. In Chicago, schools like Whitney Young, or Simeon, will still send basketball stars into the NCAA without problems.

But what about some of the other high schools? They will struggle with the new requirements. Students might show up junior year, be suddenly 12 inches taller and a top recruit. Because they were undersized, they weren't big names. They haven't done the work from day one.

These are the kids that are going to be affected by all of this.

And that is where you will start to see an even bigger rise in the basketball academies around the country. They will likely take some time to get going. Maybe in 2017, a few doors will open in bigger cities. They will be formed on premises similar to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, but these will be four-year high schools, and the players will start there during their freshman years.

We won't just have a few of these semi-independent schools dominating the basketball landscape. We will have hundreds.

The easy reason is money. Here is the chance for some smart education and athletically inclined entrepreneur to make a lot of it. Start a school that has solid academics behind it. Get it recognized by the NCAA and the local school system. Talk about the education of the athletes that will be done in small classrooms, and with the top teachers. Talk about how you are already on the approved list with the NCAA.

Watch the top players come.

It might be slow for a few seasons. The best might not come. But as soon as a few friends don't make the cut in terms of grades, or classes, you can bet there will be an influx of applications.

These are not the fly-by-night operations that were called out in the O'Neil pieces. These are real schools that are focused on preparing basketball players. I don't think it is far fetched to think that in 15 years, these schools would dominate big city basketball instead of the traditional public high schools, because the money surrounding sports, and the drive of kids who think they are pro ballers is there. Kids will actually push to go to these schools, because they see an easier path to college, even if it is for one season, and then the NBA or somewhere a paycheck comes along with playing basketball.

I could even see it getting so big that the suburban high schools -- even the ones in wealthy areas that have strong education systems -- lose players to new sports academies. This is an "Outbreak" scenario, but with basketball as the virus.

Say goodbye to seeing dominant runs by the standard names in high school basketball. Say hello to Acme Hoop Academy, five-year champion and counting.

It is just going to take some money to get it going (money I certainly don't have). And when that money appears after that first wave of disappointed juniors and seniors find out they don't get a shot at college right away, you can bet it will grow exponentially.

So tell us. What changes do you see to high school and college basketball down the line because of the new eligibility requirements that student athletes will need to meet?