College Basketball Nation: NCAA board of directors

1. The Catholic 7 plus two or three to form the old/new Big East (you following?) needs to apply for new-conference status by June 1 and the NCAA board of directors has to vote the new league in by Sept. 1 so it could get an automatic qualifying spot in the 2014 NCAA tournament. All of that is doable. The remaining Big East would be eligible to keep its automatic-qualifier status since it would have at least seven members (even if it dropped below that number, since there is a two-year grace period). The teams don't have to have a history of playing together. If the split occurs -- as expected -- with Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence joining Butler and Xavier out of the Atlantic 10 and likely Creighton from the Missouri Valley to form a new league, the remaining Big East would have eight members. Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Memphis and Temple would populate the new league in 2014. The league is expecting Tulane in 2014 and possibly East Carolina for all sports (though just football for now). There is a chance those moves could be expedited. If the AQs go through, in 2014 there would be 32 automatic bids and one less at-large than now, at 36, for a 68-team NCAA tournament bracket.

2. If the Georgetown-Connecticut game was the last one between the two schools, the series ended with a bang. The Huskies are the big loser in fading rivalries with the Big East split after seeing quality games over the past 10-plus years with Pitt, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Providence and St. John's. The ACC has always said it can take schools early, and that's why I wouldn't be surprised to see Notre Dame in the ACC in 2013-14 if this split occurs. Louisville and Rutgers are stuck in the Big East and Maryland in the ACC because it's too late to change for this fall. Louisville would have to play Connecticut, Cincinnati and Memphis in 2013-14 to at least keep those rivalries going for another year before they could get split up once the Cardinals move to the ACC.

3. UCLA coach Ben Howland said he's confident that the Pac-12 can become a destination conference tournament with the move to Las Vegas, much like the Big East was in New York. There is a chance. The Pac-10/12 was never a draw at Staples Center in Los Angeles; the league has a chance with the games in Las Vegas. The Big East had something unique in New York with the players wanting to play at Madison Square Garden. The ACC missed that opportunity by playing in Greensboro, N.C., (home to an arena and not much else for a destination) and not Charlotte or another major city in the region. The SEC should probably stick to Atlanta or New Orleans. The Big Ten should have made Chicago its tournament home annually (the event is there this season) and the Big 12 makes most sense in Kansas City, Mo. If the ACC were smart and thinking long-term, it should try to get into MSG with Syracuse, Pitt, North Carolina, Notre Dame and, of course, Duke as draws every year.

Facebook, recruiting and the NCAA

November, 29, 2010
You have to feel for the NCAA. Every time a new communications technology comes along -- e-mail, text messaging, Skype, Chat Roulette (OK, maybe not Chat Roulette) -- the NCAA has to adapt its recruiting rules to follow suit. Given the sloth with which large and profitable companies adapt to new technology, it's no surprise the NCAA is always stuck behind the curve. I'm behind the curve, and I'm on the Internet 16 hours a day.

Still, excuses aside, the bottom line is this: In recent years, the NCAA's attempts to regulate text communications between coaches and recruits have made little, if any, sense. Text-messaging is illegal; e-mail is unlimited. Direct Twitter messages are seen as e-mail, but if recruits use Twitter's text-messaging-based feature on their phones, direct messages are prohibited like texts. The rules are all jumbled and confusing, when the bottom line -- especially in 2010, and especially for young users of social media applications on smartphones -- text is text is text.

Which brings us to Facebook. The Mark Zuckerberg-run social media giant is yet another in the NCAA's umbrella of semi-regulated communications platforms; Facebook messages have thus far been treated like e-mails by the NCAA's recruiting rules. According to Bylaw Blog's always insightful John Infante, that's about to change.

On Nov. 15, Facebook announced plans to launch a new "modern messaging system" that will seek to combine e-mail, chat, public messaging, and social sharing under one intuitive umbrella. I'm not sure I'd ever use this service, because I kind of hate Facebook at this point (oh, to long for the halcyon days of 2003, when everyone you met was a potential Facebook friend!), but it's not hard to see how it would be a game-changer. From Infante:
Even if it was a fiction, that fiction was still hanging on. Until Facebook created a system that might turn a text message into an email. Or turn an email into an instant message. Or where an email might trigger a “push notification,” a potential intrusion into a prospect’s life that the rules don’t even consider. All in a system that might change the nature of a message not just based on a preference selected by a user, but even by whether the user is logged into a website or not. [...]

When Facebook rolls these changes out to their users, there won’t be time to see how coaches and recruits use these new tools. With any marketing at all, we can expect to see a large number of prospects switch to email addresses right off the bat. That means coaches could find themselves in a position where a prospect is offering a means of getting touch that carries no guarantee that any message is allowed under the rules.

So what's the solution? Change the rules. But don't just tweak them, the way they've been tweaked for texting and Twitter and e-mail and Facebook in the past. Instead, the NCAA needs to change the way we think about getting in touch with recruits altogether:
To fix the rules, we must first acknowledge a couple of things. We must acknowledge that trying to differentiate between different forms of text communication is no longer possible. We must acknowledge that these are the tools prospects want coaches to use to get in touch with them. And we must acknowledge that these tools put prospects in control of who contacts them through confirming friends, blocking users, and other privacy controls.

As it gets more difficult to regulate recruiting based on the medium used or the frequency of contact, the only option left is the time contact occurs. That could mean one of two things. It could mean that after a certain date (say August 1 prior to a prospect’s junior year in high school), there are no limits to how a coach can get in touch with a prospect. Or it could mean that during certain periods (like during a contact period), all recruiting contact is permitted with all prospects, and contact is prohibited outside of those periods.

Neither option is perfect -- when it comes to regulating recruiting contact, there's no such thing as a perfect option -- but both are much more in line with the realities of modern communication.

In 2010, no one (save for tech-blog writer-nerds) is more savvy with Facebook, Twitter, text-messaging, and email than your average high school junior. For example: Over Thanksgiving weekend, I thought I was introducing Foursquare to my buddies' younger siblings; I was promptly told that Foursquare is "stupid." Yes, this anecdotal evidence is irrefutable.

The point is, the kids are all right. They know how to manage their incoming stream of text-based coaching communications no matter the format. They understand that the inbox can be a wonderfully insulated place. It's easy to respond to the messages that matter and easy to ignore the ones that don't. And if you're willing to grant that e-mail use should be unlimited, and that cost is the main reason for regulating text-based communication -- insane cell-phone bills were one of the main reasons the NCAA banned SMS messaging last year -- then you should follow suit with Twitter, Facebook, and the like. (As for phone calls? Many would argue that phone call restrictions are dumb, too. Coaches don't land recruits with extra dials. But the cost issue is still there, and it makes sense.)

The NCAA's attempt to regulate various types of communication is like so many of the organization's policies. It comes from a good place, but it's also severely outdated. In this case, it's also pointless. Let the youngsters use their shiny computer boxes to message with, and ignore, desperate college hoops coaches as they please. Compared to the pre-cell phone, pre-caller ID, pre-everything days of yore, being a high school hoops recruit has in some ways never been easier. And there's no turning back now.

Today in 'Duh': It pays to be NCAA exec

September, 10, 2010
How much to NCAA executives make? About as much as you'd think.

The Chronicle of Higher Education examined federal tax documents recently made available to the public and found that the top 14 NCAA executives made a combined $6 million in the fiscal year that ended in August 2009. Former president Myles Brand (who passed away in September after a battle with cancer) made $1,145,880, and other executive salaries ranged from about $270,000 to $600,000. This is not exactly a surprise, but, given the recent recession and comparable salaries at other non-profit educational organizations, the Chronicle seems to take it as such. To wit:
The $6-million set aside in 2008-9 for executive compensation is just under 12 percent of the nearly $50-million the association spent on compensation for all of its employees last year, the records show. The organization, headquartered in Indianapolis, employs more than 400 people. By comparison, the American Council on Education paid its president, Molly Corbett Broad, roughly $507,000 in total compensation last year, while most of its key employees earned between $200,000 and $300,000.

I'm not the type to defend outsized executive salaries, especially the egregious, "Hey, you ran our company into the ground and nearly capsized the world economy, but here's $50 million anyway" type we saw so frequently in the banking implosion of 2007 and 2008. That stuff makes your skin crawl. And, as a general rule, CEOs are probably overpaid; they make about 300 times what their rank-and-file employees make, a rate that's been accelerating for decades. That seems a little silly.

But anyone surprised by the Chronicle's report probably shouldn't be. Brand's salary as president of the NCAA is pretty much in line with what you'd expect the NCAA president to make. University presidents typically make a similar figure -- new NCAA president Mark Emmert made about $900,000 while serving as president of the University of Washington -- and many top professors and researchers make the $300,000 or so you see at the lower level of NCAA executive compensation. Considering the NCAA will make about $776 million a year for the next 14 years from NCAA tournament TV rights alone, that compensation doesn't seem all that egregious, does it?
Last week, when yours truly was on mini-vacation in the fine city of New York, N.Y., the NCAA's board of directors put forward a potentially interesting rules change. And unless I'm missing something, it's that rarest breed of NCAA rule changes: a win-win for everybody involved.

The rule itself would make academic standards in college basketball more rigorous. Upon their enrollment in the summer, incoming freshmen would have their academic records assessed by university officials. Players who need more class work under the new guidelines would then have to take at least six credit hours in the summer -- earning at least three of those hours -- to become eligible to play in the fall.

The rule seems harsh, but that's only if you're not a college basketball coach. Under the new rule, by enrolling in those hours, players enrolled in classes could attend up to eight hours per week of coach-designated strength and conditioning time. Two of those weekly hours could be used for "skill development" with the basketball coaching staff.

In other words, the NCAA would get what it wants -- a greater institutional focus on the academic readiness of incoming freshmen. Coaches, meanwhile, get something they've wanted for years -- more time spent with incoming freshmen during the summer months.

It's hard to find negatives in this scenario. The NCAA's rules about time spent with players in the summer months are a little outdated; coaches are often forced to watch their players participate in "open gyms" and strength-training sessions from afar, and just about any coach would happily take more actual skill development time in the summer, even if that time is limited to two hours per week. You can get a lot done in two hours per week, even it's just a matter of advising your players on the proper ways to use their other individual workout time. That time is not inconsequential. And, naturally, coaches get to bolster their APR scores, which is never a bad thing either.

Of course, the NCAA -- and anyone remotely interested in the idea that student-athletes should actually, you know, be students -- gets to beef up the summer academic routine, too. If the organization has to make a trade to get there, all the better. Many incoming freshmen already enroll in second-session summer classes in order to move to their college towns a few months early anyway. Why not make sure schools are spending that time ensuring academic progress?

Players win. Coaches win. The NCAA wins.

The only losers in this scenario are schools that don't offer the summer classes their students need. Those schools would be forced to forgo the summer school and extra practices; players wouldn't be allowed to take classes they didn't need merely to have the extra practice time. You could argue that having players take extra classes, even with redundant curriculum, is a good way for them to start their college careers anyway. Time in the classroom is never a bad thing. (Unless your professor makes you put away your laptop and take notes with a notebook. Everybody hated that guy.)

But the rule as currently proposed -- assuming university officials and athletics departments policed themselves correctly -- would prevent every school and every player from taking advantage of the new opportunity. Some players wouldn't get that extra classroom work or the extra eight hours of summer workout time. Others would. That seems a bit funky.

On the whole, though, the NCAA seems to have come up with a great little tradeoff for summer eligibility. More than that, actually: The NCAA's board directors have proposed a rule that's almost unabusable. (Unlike my approach to the English language, which is why I can write words like "unabusable.")

Imagine this scenario: A coach is trying to get his newly minted freshman star in for more summer workouts. To do so, the coach has to make sure that player can take summer classes. Whether he wants to or not, that incoming freshman might actually become better educated, getting an even bigger jump-start on his collegiate academics in the process. Sounds terrible, right?

Please, college coaches: Abuse this system. I'm having a hard time finding anything wrong with it.