10 key fixes for NCAA basketball
Many believe college athletics is at a crossroads. Now the question becomes which path to take.
Should we pay athletes? Does Title IX need to be addressed? Should revenue-generating sports declare themselves business enterprises and thus face taxation in exchange for an escape from Title IX?
Despite the sweeping changes answers to those questions might bring, it feels as though modest change and modernization is more likely. Just as Congress has pursued minor adjustments to give the perception of change instead of substantively addressing our dated tax code and Medicare systems, those gathered at the two-day retreat convened by NCAA President Mark Emmert are likely to fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between overhauling and tweaking a few rules. But there is plenty that needs to be addressed.
Universities are troubled by the way recruiting is practiced and perceived. They also are worried about the assumption that college athletics is working against the best interests of their athletes and their growth in their chosen sports. Finally, the NCAA rulebook has become, like a congressional bill, filled with "pork" -- in this case, superfluous rules -- in an attempt to keep all of its constituents happy. Of course, the practice has the opposite effect.
My colleague Jay Bilas has long advocated an Olympic model for all NCAA athletes with respect to amateurism (and did so again Tuesday), whereas I believe that's a slippery slope that will not, and should not, be tread upon. Emmert was on Scott Van Pelt's radio show, and, when Emmert addressed amateurism, it became very clear that although that might be on the table, the presidents of the universities are strongly against it. It is a nonstarter.
By my estimation, college athletics -- and basketball especially -- should concentrate on changing three main elements:
Streamline the NCAA rulebook. The NCAA should adopt a less-is-more approach in which academic fraud and buying athletes are strictly prohibited but hard work and honest relationship building, and keeping up with 21st-century high school athletes' style of communication, are kept in mind.
Create an environment that better fosters the improvement and growth of an athlete. In an effort to limit the burdens and obligations placed on the student-athlete, NCAA rules overly limit contact with coaches. That limits the player's ability to improve, limits the coach's ability to serve as a mentor figure and allows third parties to become more involved in the offseason.
Give coaches more access to recruits so they can evaluate the players more accurately. Again, the thought was that assistant coaches had too many events and high school athletes had too many obligations during the recruiting process, but by limiting the number of events that showcase basketball players, more mistakes are made in terms of skill and character as coaches are forced to make surface evaluations. Players are overrecruited or underrecruited because of this, and the trickledown effect leads to more transfers as players are unhappy with their playing time or coaches are unhappy with their talents.
With those elements in mind, here are 10 fixes specifically for college basketball.
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