Commission on College Basketball calls for the end of the 'one-and-done' rule
With two of college basketball’s model student-athletes, David Robinson and Grant Hill, sitting closest to her, Condoleezza Rice laid out a future of the sport that looks to eliminate the type of malfeasance that attracted a federal investigation while maintaining its amateur structure.
The Rice-led Commission on College Basketball took on the NBA and its players’ union, AAU basketball and the NCAA for contributing to “a crisis in college basketball (that) is foremost a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility,” Rice said.
In a speech at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Rice said the vast majority of schools play by the rules but a “win at all costs” approach by others who have been inadequately punished must be changed.
No schools were mentioned, but two FBI reports, one in September and another in April, have identified recruiting practices that violate NCAA rules involving prospects who wound up at several schools, including Kansas.
Will these recommendations aimed at cleaning up the sport address the basic problem amplified by the federal investigation: Money exchanging hands to gain influence with top prospects or their families?
It happens because the value of prospects by agents, apparel companies and schools is greater than scholarships and other small streams of revenue permitted by the NCAA.
With money pouring into colleges in the major conferences from sources such as media-rights contracts and postseason games, many get rich on athletics, except those generating the revenue — the athletes, when they arrive on campus and as top-rated prospects.
The Commission has recommended more NCAA control on non-scholastic basketball, harsher penalties for coaches and schools that violate rules and asks for the cooperation of other organizations with a stake in college basketball, like the NBA.
But is anything short of restructuring a market that weighs decidedly against the athletes enough to stop illegal recruiting practices and keep the feds out of the game?
The FBI investigation spurred the NCAA into forming the Rice Commission, which issued a 60-page report that focused on several areas:
The NBA path
The commission called for an end to “one-and-done,” which sets at 19 years old the minimum age to enter the NBA Draft. The rule has been on the NBA books for a dozen years, and the Commission wants to end the practice of a one-year college career by calling on the NBA and its players’ union to change the rule.
“Elite high school players with NBA prospects and no interest in a college degree should not be forced to attend college, often for less than a year,” said Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State.
If the NBA doesn’t cooperate, Rice said her group will look at measures the NCAA can control, such as making freshmen ineligible.
Also, high school or college players who enter the draft should maintain their eligibility if they’re not drafted and don’t sign with an agent.
“Erroneously entering the NBA Draft is not the kind of misjudgment that should deprive student-athletes of the valuable opportunity to enter college or to continue in college while playing basketball,” Rice said.
Pending the outcome of court cases, the Commission didn’t offer a recommendation on allowing players to profit from their name, image or likeness — the Olympic model. But Rice wants to see that happen.
“It is hard for the public, and frankly for me, to understand what can be allowed within the college model — for the life of me I don’t understand the difference between Olympic payments and participation in Dancing with the Stars — and what can’t be allowed without opening the door to professionalizing college basketball,” Rice said.
In a joint statement, the NBA and its players’ union didn’t commit to changing the draft eligibility rules: “The NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interest of players and the game.”
Outside justice and stronger punishment
The group wants the NCAA to get out of the enforcement business and contract it to independent professionals.
“Today’s current state, where an entire community knows of significant rule breaking and yet the governance body lacks the power or will to investigate and act, breeds cynicism and contempt,” Rice said.
The most egregious violations would carry a five-year postseason ban and loss of revenue sharing, and coaches could be banned for a year.
In a recent case, Louisville coach Rick Pitino received a five-game suspension for violations related to an assistant coach hiring strippers for recruits. Pitino was later fired after being tied to the FBI investigation.
The Commission also took a swipe at North Carolina and its recent academic fraud case.
“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,” Rice said.
AAU basketball’s ungoverned space
In an attempt to dilute the influence of AAU basketball, the Commission recommended the NCAA with the help of the NBA and USA Basketball establish by 2019 and run its own recruiting events for prospects in the summer.
The NCAA also should require greater transparency of the finances of AAU and other non-school sponsored events that showcase prospects and ban coaches from attending those that do not comply.
At the Final Four, NCAA officials said changes recommended by the Committee will be implemented for the 2018-19 school year.
But will these recommendations aimed at cleaning up the sport address the basic problem amplified by the federal investigation: The value of prospects by agents, apparel companies and schools is greater than the scholarship and other small streams of revenue permitted by the NCAA?
A statement that was written by the Kansas City-based National Association of Basketball Coaches and distributed to coaches before the Rice Commission report was released threw its support behind the group.
“Today's announcement from the Commission on College Basketball is a necessary step to addressing the issues our game faces in light of the Department of Justice investigation,” NABC President Jim Haney said. “We were fully supportive of the Commission's formation and its charge and knew impactful change was coming.”