The NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball revealed its findings and recommendations on Wednesday morning to fix the problems facing the game, and the general consensus seems to be that they were underwhelming. You can read the full report here. Between a 3,000-plus-word statement from commission chair Condoleezza Rice and a 53-page report released alongside it, there’s a lot to work through, but Rice gave us the most important point right up top:
“Our focus has been to strengthen the collegiate model – not to move toward one that brings aspects of professionalism into the game.”
Remember, this whole commission exists because of the FBI’s investigation into how money changes hands in and around college basketball. Rice made it clear that this core issue would not be addressed, but that the commission would instead try to clean up around the edges and hope that makes enough of an impact for now. But for as long as athletes are not allowed to be legally compensated, others will find a way to compensate them illegally. That’s how it’s been since the early days of the NCAA and nothing has changed.
That said, the commission did propose some meaningful changes that, if enacted, could bring slight improvements to the system.
Here are a few:
“First, we must separate the collegiate track from the professional track by ending one and-done. We call on the NBA and the NBPA, who exclusively have the power here, to once again make 18-year-olds eligible for the NBA draft so that high school players who are drafted may proceed directly to the NBA.”
IMPACT: This is the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t have the impact that the commission hopes it will. The one-and-done rule was instituted over a decade ago with noble intentions, but ultimately does more harm than good. By eliminating it, we will no longer have athletes who are forced to play school from September to March when they could be earning money. That’s undeniably a good thing, and the damage done by college basketball losing these talented players is a necessary evil. So this proposal is good. But here’s the thing: The commission seems to think this will help root out corruption and, as Mike DeCourcy points out, there is absolutely no evidence to back that up. There will always be best available players in college basketball, college basketball will always be about coaches, schools, and leagues making money, and therefore those players will always have a monetary value. Even if they aren’t as talented as in years past.
The important to remember is that the one-and-done rule is set by the NBA, not the NCAA. Any change would have to come from that end.
The Commission also recommends that student-athletes be able to test their professional prospects and maintain eligibility if they do not sign a professional contract. We believe high school and college players who declare for the draft and are not drafted should remain eligible for college basketball unless and until they sign a professional contract.
IMPACT: We love to toot the old “let the players go get paid” horn as much as possible on here, but, as mentioned above, there are always a handful of flat-out bad decisions. It’s unavoidable. Think about how dumb you were at 18 years old. Now think about what you would do for even an outside shot at a six-figure salary at that age. Under this change, those who enter the draft and go undrafted can retain their eligibility without penalty. It’s going to be an annoyance for coaches from all levels of the sport. Big whoop. If the commission’s goal is to “put the college back in college basketball” like it says, then it needs to do everything in its power to maximize the number of degrees that universities hand out to their athletes. That means giving them every chance available to return to school if they have the means.
“The Commission also has concluded that one aspect of the current transfer rule – the requirement that a player who transfers sit out for a year – remain in place. Players who transfer are less likely to complete their degree.”
On grad transfers:
“We understand that the NCAA’s Transfer Working Group is currently considering this issue and potential responses, including “locking down” scholarships for the period of a degree program and imposing an enhanced penalty on a team’s Academic Progress Rate if the recipient leaves before completing his graduate program.”
IMPACT: Things pretty much stay the same and we’ll keep fighting about it on Twitter.
Honestly, fine. This was all probably going to happen anyway. We’ve railed against this rule before and you’re welcome to disagree. The purpose of this commission, however, was not necessarily to overhaul the transfer market. And this might shock you, but I’m actually not against potential APR penalties against schools that take grad transfers who don’t complete their programs...as long as it’s within reason. Currently, undergraduates who leave without their degrees do not hurt a school’s APR provided they are in good academic standing. That should extend to grad transfers as well. One reason I’ve always liked the grad transfer wave is because it gives student-athletes an opportunity to improve their athletic prospects (by gaining exposure and facing better competition at a bigger-name school) and their professional prospects (by getting them started on a graduate degree that may not be offered at their current school). So, making them take their academics seriously while still in college is a good thing. And if it turns out they can go pro and earn a few bucks without a graduate degree, then so be it!
But again, what is this doing in a report that began because of the FBI investigation?
“Players should be able to receive meaningful assessment of professional prospects earlier with assistance from certified agents. We recommend that the NCAA and its member institutions develop strict standards for certifying agents and allow only those NCAA-certified agents to engage with student-athletes at an appropriate point in their high school careers as determined by the NCAA.”
IMPACT: I’m interested to see if this is ever enacted, and if so, how. Its intentions are clear: to give prospects as much assistance and feedback as possible as they begin and go through their collegiate careers. I’m just not sure what the certification process is like and will be like, and how you police these sort of interactions. If enacted, the most likely impact is probably that your favorite player will be forced to sit out the first six games of the next season while the NCAA investigates whether or not he had illegal interactions with an agent last February. This investigation began in July.
“We recommend that the NCAA immediately establish a substantial fund and commit to paying for the degree completion of student-athletes with athletic scholarships who leave member institutions after progress of at least two years towards a degree.”
IMPACT: You want to see the NCAA ACTUALLY make it easier for students to get degrees? Here’s a good way to do it. Many schools already have similar programs in place, but making it universal would be a huge help. This will help some of the rising juniors who leave school early and can’t sustain a professional career for whatever reason. The opportunity to go back to school and earn a degree should not be taken lightly.
“We recommend the following increases in the core penalty structure: 1. Increase the competition penalties for Level I violations to allow a five-year postseason ban, including the NCAA tournament. 2. Increase the financial penalties for Level I violations to allow loss of all revenue sharing in post-season play, including revenue from the NCAA tournament. 3. Increase the penalties for a show-cause order to allow bans of more than one season 4. Increase the restrictions on head coaches to allow bans of more than one season; and 5. Increase the penalties for recruiting visit violations to allow full-year visit bans”
IMPACT: This might be the only point in the report where the commission appears to actually be trying to clean up the game. We’ve heard the “well every coach is doing it” excuse for so long now that we’ve just accepted it as something we can’t do anything about. This is an attempt to change that. Personally, I don’t really care about coaches giving the bag to recruits. I’m all for players making money when they have the chance, but this commission already made it clear that it disagrees. Ultimately, though, universities will get better at cheating and coaches will get better at dodging responsibility. That’s it.
“The Commission recommends that the NCAA revise and clarify its role in addressing academic fraud or misconduct by member institutions and make application of those rules consistent. The NCAA must have jurisdiction to address academic fraud and misconduct to the extent that it affects student-athletes’ eligibility. Member institutions can no longer be permitted to defend a fraud or misconduct case on the ground that all students, not just athletes, were permitted to “benefit” from that fraud or misconduct.”
“Turning to the apparel companies, it is time that the money flowing from apparel companies and other third parties into non-scholastic basketball be disclosed and accounted for in order to address the corruption we see in the sport.”
“With respect to the longer term, the Commission recommends that, with a goal of 2019, the NCAA work with USA Basketball, the NBA, the NBPA and others to establish and administer new youth basketball programs....that development would include not only basketball, but also academic and life skills, health and collegiate eligibility. One centerpiece of this program would be NCAA-administered regional non-scholastic basketball events in July that would be the only ones that NCAA coaches attend in that crucial recruiting month.”
IMPACT: None because I can’t imagine a lot of this ever actually happens. I like the idea of more transparency from apparel companies. We should be able to say exactly how the relationships work between Nike, an EYBL team, that team’s coach, and Nike-affiliated universities. That’s all fine. But tell me what this new NCAA-affiliated program would be like. Do you think Nike really cares if it didn’t have coaches showing up at Peach Jam? They’re at the EYBL sessions already, and anyway, that’s not what gets Nike in trouble. The apparel companies’ biggest benefit is from bringing in the best high school talent in hopes of building a relationship with them that will last into their professional days. And it gets messy. Like when adidas decides to funnel money to a kid’s family so he agrees to attend an adidas-affiliated school. That’s not going to stop and you’re not going to just eliminate the shoe company circuits. Anyway, come July, there’s no recruit worth paying for that isn’t a known quantity as it is.
So there you have it. You’ve seen the whole report. You know the talking points. And it’s...fine. It just doesn’t fix the major problem.