A little more than three months ago — in the wake of the federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball — NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that he had established a commission to clean up the sport.
Since then, relatively little had been said about the Commission on College Basketball until Emmert addressed the issue in his address at the NCAA Convention on Thursday night, and then in a follow-up interview with reporters.
In his speech, Emmert referred to the “damning charges” made by federal investigators, who released findings last fall that led to indictments against several major Division I assistant coaches, shoe company executives and others.
“It’s disgusting. It’s corrupt. It’s just wrong,” Emmert said Thursday night.
He also pledged that the NCAA is serious in its response to the federal investigation, and that the Commission on College Basketball is a serious body that will lead to lasting change, hopefully by the start of the 2018-19 season.
“People don’t want words, they want to see results from us,” he said. “They want to see action. They want to see us do things.”
Emmert and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson, the chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, spoke to reporters from the Herald-Leader, ESPN and the Associated Press later Thursday night to outline what the Commission has been doing since it was formed in October, and what the future holds for its impact on the sport.
Emmert said the Commission — led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — is meeting, in person, about once a month, in addition to regular teleconferences.
He said they’ve already met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA players’ association head Michele Roberts about what the relationship should be between the NCAA and professional basketball. Emmert said the Commission has also brought in agents and leaders from apparel companies.
Youth basketball leagues — like the ones sponsored by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, which churn out the top college prospects every year — are also an area of focus for the Commission.
“They’re going to be doing the same thing with … grassroots ball,” Emmert said. “What’s that relationship? How’s it helping or hindering?”
Emmert and Peterson are both listed as “ex officio” members of the Commission, which also includes former NBA greats David Robinson and Grant Hill, among others. The NCAA president called Rice “the real deal,” and Peterson said she didn’t take the appointment — or the responsibility — lightly.
“When Secretary Rice agreed to do this, one of the questions that she had was, ‘How serious is the NCAA about this process? Are you going to take the recommendations seriously? Do you have plans to implement them?’ … I think she felt it was important that we be there, in order to send a message,” he said.
The Commission on College Basketball is a body “truly independent” of the NCAA, officials stressed at this week’s convention.
Jon Duncan, vice president of enforcement for the NCAA, said Thursday that he’s never been in the room with the Commission — noting its independence — but his staff is on call for any questions from its members.
“If they have questions about some of the data, or how we process a case or what we see, we’ll provide that to the staff liaisons who provide it to the Rice Commission. And that’s happened,” Duncan said.
“What they’re going to do — I don’t know. I believe that they want to see enforcement strong. And I hope that they make some recommendations along those lines.”
Emmert and Peterson laid out a timeline for where things will progress from here.
The Commission will hand over its recommendations — to be announced at the NCAA’s board meeting on April 25 — and there will also be a public release of the recommendations at that time.
Peterson said the NCAA Board of Governors will then review those recommendations to determine what course of action is going to be taken, and then direct the Division I board to develop an implementation process.
There will be another NCAA meeting in August, when the full legislative proposals will be voted on to “operationalize what the Commission has recommended,” as Emmert put it.
He said preemptive discussions have been taking place this week to prepare to quickly address those recommendations. The NCAA also released a statement Thursday night that said the Board of Governors has set aside $10 million in reserves this year to help members implement the accepted recommendations. The Board also approved setting aside $2.5 million annually beginning with the 2019-20 fiscal year to implement any approved recommendations. In addition to that, the Board approved a one-time, $31.5 million supplemental revenue distribution to Division I programs.
Emmert noted that this process is moving “way, way faster” than typical NCAA changes, and he’s expecting that to continue.
“We anticipate and hope that the boards can act very expeditiously on (the Commission’s) recommendations,” he said. “This isn’t something that we expect to be drawn out for a long time.”
Emmert had no update on the current status of the federal investigation into college basketball. “We don’t know anything more than you do,” he said. “They conduct their business in private, and we’ll see where they wind up.”
He also didn’t offer any timeline for a possible change to the NBA’s so-called “one-and-done” rule, though he did acknowledge that it was discussed in the Commission’s meeting with Silver and Roberts last fall.
“You’ll have to talk to them,” Emmert said of the NBA. “Ultimately, it’s their decision ensconced in their collective bargaining agreement. This is hardly the first time that this issue has been discussed. The Commission and those two individuals had a great exchange.”
Asked if he thought the Commission’s recommendations in April might include something related to changes to that one-and-done rule — which, again, is an NBA rule, not an NCAA one — Emmert said: “I assume so, but, again, we don’t know what the Commission is going to recommend.”
Emmert said that he and Peterson aren’t always in the room during the Commission’s discussions — again stressing the body’s independence — and said he looks forward to the findings.
“We have to hear what they have to say, we have to digest it, and we have to act on it,” he said in his speech earlier in the night. “We have to have real, meaningful change put in place by tip-off next year.”