Last fall, the NCAA’s Board of Governors created a commission to address the many and varied problems infecting college basketball.
That commission, the Commission on College Basketball, has presented its homework, and you’re never going to believe this, but it concluded the NCAA needs to get larger, more powerful, and hire some more executives.
You had to read through more than half of this very sexy 60-page document to reach the Commission’s foundational principle, which turned out to be that the NCAA basically has the right idea.
In assessing both the challenges and the potential reforms, the Commission accepted as its foundational principle the collegiate model of athletic competition. The NCAA’s basic purpose is “to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body and, by so doing, retain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports.”
Prepared by Condoleezza Rice, who apparently now is a leading sports person, the report does a thorough job of investigating the major complaints about the acrid swamp that is amateur basketball in the United States. It observes that NCAA amateurism rules create a black market for basketball players, and it comprehensively walks the reader through all the ways in which that damages basketball and basketball players at all levels.
Its solution, however, is to simply expand the NCAA. This report recommends the NCAA get involved in summer basketball, it proposes the NCAA involve itself in agent certification. It proposes entirely new bureaucratic arms.
The Commission recommends that the NCAA and its member institutions develop strict standards for certifying agents and allow NCAA-certified agents to engage with student-athletes at an appropriate point in their high school careers to be determined by the NCAA. The NCAA must appoint a Vice-President level executive to develop meaningful standards for NCAA certification and administer the program.
These players are out here getting money for playing basketball, and we’ve got to create a new executive position to put a stop to it!
There is no problem in this report that cannot be solved by expanding the NCAA’s size or reach in some way. In one passage, the report addresses complaints that college basketball players generate lots of money for colleges, but are not compensated fairly for doing so.
The Commission’s solution to that issue is for the NCAA to standardize degree completion programs to help players graduate even after they’re done playing basketball, to ensure they receive the full benefit of their educational opportunity, which we’re assured is ample.
The Commission recommends that the NCAA immediately establish a substantial fund and commit to paying for the degree completion of student-athletes with athletic scholarships who leave member institutions after progress of at least two years towards a degree. Colleges and universities must fulfill their commitments to student-athletes to provide not just a venue for athletic competition, but also an education. They must promise student-athletes that the option to receive an education will be there, even after the athlete is finished with his athletic career. This will be expensive, but it is necessary to restore credibility to the phrase student-athlete. Many NCAA member institutions already provide Degree Completion Programs. NCAA rules should standardize this offering.
As noted above, for student-athletes who receive a degree, the enhanced value of their lifetime earnings averages $1 million.11 Again, the Commission agrees that for these benefits to be realized, colleges must make good on their commitment to
assist student-athletes in earning their degrees.
It recommended the NCAA create new investigative agencies.
The Commission recommends that the NCAA create independent investigative and adjudicative arms to address and resolve complex and serious cases (hereafter “complex cases”) involving violations of NCAA rules.
It recommended the NCAA create new summer basketball programs.
The Commission recommends that the NCAA take short and
long-term actions to reform non-scholastic basketball and disassociate the NCAA and its member institutions from the aspects of non-scholastic basketball where transparency and ethical behavior cannot be assured. As part of this effort, the Commission recommends that the NCAA partner with USA Basketball, the NBA, the NBPA and others to create and administer new resources and programs for youth basketball development, including substantial regional camps for collegiate prospects in July where NCAA coaches would evaluate players.
This includes creating straight-up NCAA youth basketball, which doesn’t even make sense as a sentence.
With respect to the longer term, the Commission recommends that with a goal of 2019, the NCAA work with USA Basketball, the NBA and the NBPA and others to establish and administer new youth basketball programs. We would expect the NCAA
to devote significant resources and attention to these programs.
And last but not least: Make the NCAA Board of Governors bigger.
The Commission recommends that the NCAA restructure its highest governance body, the Board of Governors, to include at least five public members with the experience, stature and objectivity to assist the NCAA in re-establishing itself as an
effective and respected leader and regulator of college sports. One of these public members should also serve on the NCAA’s Executive Board.
These are not necessarily bad ideas. The report contains a lot of good ideas, including allowing undrafted players to return to school, eliminating the one-and-done rule (which can only be done by the NBA), being more reasonable about enforcement of minor infractions, and holding coaches and administrators more accountable for violations. It sidesteps the question about allowing players to profit from their names and likenesses, saying it didn’t want to make a recommendation without knowing how some ongoing litigation is going to turn out. But it stressed the importance of keeping a clear distinction between college athletes and professional athletes.
Most of the suggestions contained in the report are reasonable reforms, but they are all based on the fundamental premise that the NCAA’s basic idea of amateurism is correct, that the deal college athletes currently get is a pretty good one, and that the NCAA should be the keeper of amateur basketball in America.
In other words, the NCAA was told just what it wanted to hear.