After seven months of deliberation and the formation of a committee headed by none other than Condoleezza Rice, Tuesday morning the NCAA finally announced a plan to address the FBI investigation and related scandals that have plagued college basketball.
It’s passing the buck to the NBA and NBA Players Association.
That was the takeaway as Rice began her press conference at 8 a.m. on the East Coast, interestingly scheduled for an hour when much of the country was still in bed.
The plan begins with asking the NBAPA to reconsider the so-called one-and-done rule, and allow 18 year olds to enter the NBA Draft out of high school. If they NBA and its players’ union don’t agree to make the change, well Rice said her group would then need to reconvene and entertain new ideas.
After all that time with a group of very smart people working on it, essentially all the NCAA came up with were hollow words about actually enforcing its own rules and an attempt to pass responsibility and eventually blame onto the pro game.
Here’s the thing: NBA folks may decide to change the one-and-done and/or other draft rules. But if they do, it won’t be as a charitable gesture to the NCAA. The NBA is a business and the Players Association exists only to serve its current and future members.
Each summer the NBAPA hosts its Top 100 camp for elite high school prospects. It’s a basketball showcase, but it’s also an opportunity for the union to introduce itself to young players who might one day pay dues.
Talking to people there in June, it was clear there is a level of distrust of the NCAA among NBAPA types, players and their families. They are just as suspicious of the NCAA as the NCAA is of the agents and shoe companies.
“We build a network, a community to help one another and it doesn’t just last while we’re here at the camp,” Keyon Dooling, who runs player programs for the NBAPA said. “The NCAA has to make their system better and less exploitive to really help the players.”
By opening the announcement with talk of the one-and-done rule, it now becomes easy for the NCAA to eventually say it’s really all out of its hands. But how much of the problem is the one-and-done anyway.
Players who have come up in the FBI documents range from surefire one-and-dones to mid-level recruits to fifth-year seniors. The problems are much less with the small percentage of players who may be able to go to the NBA straight out of high school and more with the NCAA’s inconsistent enforcement of its own antiquated and overly complicated rules.
There are other parts of the presentation that were, at least, worthy of discussion. A call for USA Basketball to get more involved with summer programs and showcases for recruits is interesting.
But it also ignores the fact that several prominent coaches — Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Tom Izzo and Jim Boeheim among them, already have strong ties to USA Basketball and have used it to their advantage on the recruiting trail. Those coaches also tend to sign high-profile players deeply entrenched in the sneaker company bidding wars.
A suggestion to follow the Olympic model and allow players to profit from their own likeness is a step in the right direction, but that appears far from a done deal.
The NCAA once again had prime opportunity to make an important statement, but came off weak and tentative even after months of prep time. The NCAA has an opportunity to either evolve or continue to ask for help from groups and individuals who have no incentive to bail it out.
If it sticks with the latter, not much is going to change.