After a recruiting scandal triggered by an FBI probe of college basketball, the NCAA now has the recommendations of the commission it empaneled to guide it in making changes in the sport.
The major issue will be turning those recommendations into rules.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the Commission on College Basketball’s sweeping recommendations for reform Wednesday. The NCAA Board of Governors, a group of 16 university presidents and the association’s highest ranking body, unanimously endorsed all the commission’s recommendations.
Various subcommittees, working groups and college administrators will work over the next three months as the NCAA attempts to change NBA Draft rules, create a new enforcement body, toughen penalties for rules violations, revamp summer recruiting, and certify agents, all while trying to get buy-in from organizations that might not be motivated to help.
“I love the direction of the Rice Commission recommendations,” Alabama head basketball coach Avery Johnson told TideSports on Wednesday. “I appreciate the multi-level approach addressing areas that can improve college basketball immediately and in the near future.”
One high-profile effort will be working with the NBA to change rules that allow the current “one-and-done” system, although not all schools necessarily regard “one-and-done” as the most pressing problem. The University of Alabama had its first “one-and-done” player in more than 15 years in the just-concluded season as All-SEC guard Collin Sexton opted to leave school to pursue a professional career.
The commission called for the NBA and its players association to change rules requiring players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be draft eligible. The “one-and-done” rule was implemented in 2006, despite the success of straight-from-high-school stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.
The commission did, however, say if the NBA and NBPA refuse to change their rules in time for the next basketball season, it would reconvene and consider other options for the NCAA, such as making freshmen ineligible or locking a scholarship for three or four years if the recipient leaves a program after a single year.
“One-and-done has to go one way or another,” Rice told The Associated Press.
The independent commission released its much-anticipated and detailed 60-page report, seven months after the group was formed, in response to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball. Ten people, including some assistant coaches, have been charged in a bribery and kickback scheme, and high-profile programs such as Arizona, Louisville and Kansas have been tied to possible NCAA violations.
Alabama was mentioned in one FBI document involving Sexton’s parents, former associate athletics director Kobie Baker, and an agent’s representative. Sexton was suspended for one game and his family paid restitution for a meal Sexton’s father had received from a former UA employee and no one associated with UA has been indicted in the probe.
The commission offered harsh assessments of toothless NCAA enforcement, as well as the shady summer basketball circuit that brings together agents, apparel companies, and coaches looking to profit on teenage prodigies. It called the environment surrounding hoops “a toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat,” and said responsibility for the current mess goes all the way up to university presidents.
The commission recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers and the NCAA outsource the investigation and adjudication of the most serious infractions cases. Level I violations would be punishable with up to a five-year postseason ban and the forfeiture of all postseason revenue for the time of the ban. That could be worth tens of millions to major conference schools.
–Cecil Hurt contributed to this report