Promises were made by the NCAA to move swiftly this summer to change college basketball for the better — and the biggest steps toward that movement were made this week.
The NCAA Division I Board of Governors and Division I board of directors adopted a series of sweeping new legislation and policy Wednesday, mostly effective immediately.
It was the first attempt to address issues in recruiting, amateurism and shoe-company control over summer hoops where corruption was unveiled in last year’s FBI investigations into fraud in the sport.
Whether these new rules can fix the problems remains to be seen, but University of Minnesota President and Division I board of directors chair Eric Kaler told the Star Tribune that Wednesday was an “enormously significant” day for college athletics.
“Perhaps historically remarkable change over the period of time we’ve been engaged with this,” Kaler said. “It’s been a very, very quick turnaround, which reflects a huge amount of work on the part of NCAA staff and others involved in college basketball. They really put in place substantial, significant, important changes that I feel will transform the way we handle college basketball, and hopefully enable the public to have greater trust and confidence in the game.”
Many of the reforms came from the recommendations by the Commission on College Basketball this spring, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
One of the most talked about changes is allowing college basketball players to return to school and play after going undrafted by the NBA. This only applies to players who are invited to the NBA combine.
“That always seemed to me to be a real head-scratcher of a rule,” Kaler said. “It’s true that some large fraction of D-I players and high school players think they’re going to play in the NBA. There are just not that many slots. I think allowing the student-athlete to figure that out and not bet the farm on it is a fair thing to do.”
Agents can be hired to assist elite college and high school athletes now without voiding their amateur status. But the high school seniors incorporated in this new rule need to be draft eligible, which might not happen until the NBA and NBA Players Association meet in 2021 or 2022.
”That’s unfortunately not in our control,” Kaler said. “I know [NCAA President] Mark Emmert, [NBA Commissioner Adam] Silver and others have had good conversations. I expect to see that change.”
Last month, Gophers coach Richard Pitino and many of his peers were afraid the NCAA would ban them from future shoe-company sponsored AAU tournaments during the critical July recruiting period.
“I’m on the side that says it’s not a good idea to cancel that,” Pitino said last month. “It makes no sense. I don’t know how it fixes anything, truthfully. AAU is not the problem. There may be a bad character involved in something AAU, but 99 percent of the people are good people.”
Turns out the summer recruiting calendar won’t be completely void of events such as the Nike Peach Jam after all. The NCAA, though, will become heavily involved in the scene with its own invite-only camps for coaches to view prospects, approximately 2,400 of them. How they will be selected is yet to be determined.
Pitino said trying to evaluate in camps will be “very, very challenging.” Kaler said this maybe is the NCAA’s biggest statement so far to provide an opportunity for recruiting to take place in a more trustworthy environment.
“A big place that we’ll be seen is in the NCAA organized summer camps,” he said. “We’ll have it in a much more controlled and organized way that will be enormously healthier for the game and people involved.”