Tomorrow morning, the NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, will share its recommendations on how to fix the problems facing the sport. What should you expect? Given the organization’s track record, probably not much, but let’s talk about it anyways.
Formed in the wake of the FBI’s report last fall, the committee focused on three key areas: the relationship of the NCAA, its member institutions, players, and coaches with shoe companies, summer leagues, and agents/advisors; the NCAA’s relationship with the NBA, i.e. the one-and-done rule; and transparency and accountability. Since the NBA is responsible for the one-and-done rule, don’t expect any changes there; in fact, it’s important to remember that all these suggestions are just that — suggestions. Whether or not they lead to actual change is a whole other story. NCAA officials won’t vote on the recommendations until August, leading to a long summer of speculation.
In that spirit, here are my suggestions on how to fix college basketball. Condi, if you’re reading, feel free to use them.
Adopt the Olympic model/Allow players to profit off their likeness
The NCAA topped $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 2017, thanks in large part to the NCAA Tournament. How much of that money do the players see? I bet you can guess. It’s beyond time for the hypocrisy to end and, as John Calipari said a few months ago, this is one of the easiest changes the NCAA can make.
“I think these kids should be able to use their likeness, make money from their signatures,” Cal said in February. “It’s their name and likeness. It’s not ours. It’s theirs. They should be able to make money. Maybe the school manages it, maybe the money goes to their parents for travel, eliminates all the — maybe there’s a limit on what they can do, maybe they get it when they leave here. It’s all stuff that can be done easily.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert did say at the Final Four that he’s open to the Olympic model, which would allow players to earn money for endorsements while retaining their amateur status; however, even if the committee recommends it, an organization that’s raking in this much money won’t give it away willingly.
Allow underclassmen who aren’t drafted to return to school
From his recent comments and the growth of the G-League, it appears NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is prepared to do away with the one-and-done rule; that won’t happen tomorrow, but look for the committee to present some kind of alternative, whether it be a version of two-and-through, the baseball/hockey model (see below), or getting rid of the one-and-done rule completely. The end of the one-and-done era is certainly coming, and tomorrow’s recommendation could provide a blueprint for when it arrives.
In the meantime, the easiest, most common-sense solution would be allowing underclassmen who declare for the draft to go through the draft and retain their eligibility if they’re not picked. Whether or not those players come back to school would be their decision, but kicking them out the door because they decide to chase their dreams goes against what the organization should be about.
Explore the hockey model
Similar to baseball, high school hockey players can now sign with an agent, go through the draft, and decide whether or not to sign with that team and play in a junior league (like the G-League) or play in college. The only restriction is that the representation must end before the player enrolls in school. The system will probably impact only 50 or so hockey players a year, but why can’t something like it work in college hoops? Only the top 10-15 high schoolers in each class should consider going pro straight out of college, so why not allow them to sign with an agent, explore their options, then make the decision?
I doubt the committee will say anything about this tomorrow because it’s pretty radical, but it’s food for thought, especially in light of Calipari’s recent meeting with the NBA Players Association about hosting a junior combine for the nation’s top prospects. Cal recently came out against the baseball model, arguing it wouldn’t work in basketball because the minor league system is much more extensive than the G-League, but there is something to be said for allowing players to have representation and be evaluated in high school to determine whether or not they’re able to make the leap straight to the pros.
Something — anything — about agents/summer league/shoe companies
This committee was formed after the FBI report about the influence of shoe companies and agents on the sport, so expect to hear some stern language about it tomorrow. While the corruption in the summer leagues is beyond the NCAA’s control, I’ll be interested to see if they have any answers on how to address it.
For instance, when financial documents were leaked a few months ago suggesting top college players met with or had meals with agents, Emmert seemed to brush it off as no big deal (likely because it’s so widespread punishment isn’t possible). Is that actually going to become no big deal? Is there a way players can meet with agents to discuss their options without risking their eligibility? Or are we just going to continue talking about how it’s a major problem and do nothing about it?
When it comes to summer leagues, which are funded by shoe companies, perhaps the NCAA could partner with USA Basketball to provide a viable alternative? Both the Pac-12 and the Big East recommended this recently, but taking down giants like the EYBL, adidas Gauntlet, and the UAA will require a major investment.
Reform bylaws for academic fraud
The NCAA really proved that academics mean nothing when they let North Carolina off the hook for 18 years of fake classes. Say all you want about Brian Bowen, Rick Pitino, adidas, etc., but the UNC case is by far the biggest black mark on the NCAA’s reputation and if the committee really means business, they’ll close that loophole and reform the bylaws. Considering how embarrassing that entire episode must have been for the organization, I would think this is priority number one.
Will Condi’s committee take any of my advice? Probably not, but find out tomorrow morning by watching their presentation, which we’ll stream live on KSR. The fun begins at 8 a.m. ET.