The much-anticipated report of recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball — tasked by the NCAA last fall with cleaning up the sport — was released to the public Wednesday morning.
The Commission’s report identified and expounded upon many of the perceived problem areas in college basketball and its youth feeder system, though the recommendations themselves fell short of what many in the sport were expecting.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — chair of the Commission, which also includes basketball legends such as David Robinson and Grant Hill — announced the findings at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, and the report itself was posted in full online Wednesday morning.
Here are the major topics the Commission addressed following six months of meetings and interviews with key figures at all levels of basketball:
The one-and-done rule
The Commission’s report leads with an area that the NCAA has acknowledged it has no power to change: the NBA’s so-called one-and-done rule.
Rice, speaking on behalf of the Commission, called on the NBA and the NBA players’ association to eliminate the league’s rule prohibiting players from joining the NBA straight out of high school.
“Should the NBA and the NBPA decide not to do so, the Commission will reconvene and consider other measures,” Rice said. “Elite high school players with NBA prospects and no interest in a college degree should not be forced to attend college.”
She said, if the NBA fails to act, the NCAA could consider such changes as ruling all freshmen ineligible or “locking” scholarships for three or four years if a school’s player leaves the program for the NBA after a single season.
The report — which at one point referred to one-and-done players as “hired guns” — concluded that the notion of keeping prep stars out of the NBA for a season has led to much of the corruption in college basketball that resulted in federal charges last fall and the formation of the Commission.
“One-and-done has played a significant role in corrupting and destabilizing college basketball, restricting the freedom of choice of players, and undermining the relationship of college basketball to the mission of higher education,” the report states.
NBA insiders have pointed to the 2020 recruiting class — players who will be juniors in high school next season — as the most likely first class to be permitted to jump straight to the league, if the NBA and its players’ association agree to make the rule change.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and top players’ rep Michele Roberts were among the first basketball officials to meet with the Commission last fall.
Silver and Roberts released a joint statement Wednesday thanking the Commission for “their commitment to address the issues facing men’s basketball” but offered no firm commitment on changing one-and-done.
“Regarding the NBA’s draft eligibility rules, the NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game,” their statement read.
Rice said the Commission seriously considered adopting the “baseball rule,” which would force players who choose to go the college route to stay there for multiple seasons before being allowed to jump to the NBA.
“By requiring students who choose the collegiate path to make a long-term commitment to their education, the baseball rule increases the number of student-athletes who ultimately earn degrees,” Rice said. “However, it would also keep collegiate players ready for the NBA in school against their will, where they will be potentially disgruntled magnets for corrupt money and the undermining of the collegiate model.”
The Commission also called for the NCAA and NBA to work together to ensure that players who declare for the draft but go undrafted can return to school — and retain their playing eligibility — as long as they don’t sign a professional contract.
NBA rules currently state that players who stay in the draft and go undrafted are free agents. Those players are not permitted to return to college basketball.
A popular rumor in grassroots basketball circles indicated the Commission would recommend that the NCAA cut ties completely with spring and summer leagues sponsored and operated by shoe companies such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.
Such leagues run from April through July and attract hundreds of college coaches to their events, which feature nearly all of the top-ranked basketball recruits in the high school ranks.
Instead of ending shoe-company leagues altogether, the Commission called for those operations to become completely financially transparent and for the NCAA to bar college coaches from events that fail to comply with that level of transparency.
Rice used the phrase “ungoverned space” to refer to non-scholastic basketball leagues. “The corruption we observed in college basketball has its roots in youth basketball,” she said.
The Commission’s report didn’t offer complete details on how to achieve that goal, and Rice implied that much of the onus would be on the apparel companies themselves to follow through with the changes.
The Commission also recommended that the NCAA work with USA Basketball, the NBA and the NBA players’ association to establish new youth basketball programs around the country.
“We would expect the NCAA to devote significant resources and attention to these programs,” the report states, proposing national and regional camps and events for high school basketball players with college potential.
The NBPA already offers the Top 100 Camp every June, a showcase that includes on-court instruction by NBA players and off-court advising on academic and life skills. USA Basketball annually hosts training camps and sponsors youth teams featuring the best high school prospects, and the organization launched a new camp during Final Four weekend last month that was described to the Herald-Leader as a test run for possible similar camps in the future.
It’s also worth noting that USA Basketball is currently sponsored by Nike, and the NBPA Top 100 Camp is sponsored by Under Armour.
NCAA President Mark Emmert has voiced clear opposition to the idea of schools paying players directly, but there has been a hope among many affiliated with college basketball — and college sports, in general — that players would be afforded the right to independently profit off their own name and likeness.
Observers of the sport have hypothesized that the level of corruption and under-the-table financial exchanges could be greatly remedied if players were allowed to make money in a manner that didn’t violate NCAA eligibility rules.
“The NCAA is frequently criticized for not permitting payment to student-athletes, on the ground that these young people are engaged in an activity that generates billions of dollars and yet they do not benefit,” the Commission’s report states. “The debate is longstanding; views are entrenched; and both sides make important points.”
The Commission ultimately made no real recommendations in this area, and Rice noted there are pending legal cases dealing with the subject.
“Most commissioners believe that the rules on name, image and likeness should be taken up as soon as the legal framework is established,” she said.
The Commission’s report also touted the value of a college degree, as well the coaching and other support student-athletes receive while in school, talking points the NCAA has long used to counter arguments that players be paid or be allowed to independently profit off their athletic abilities.
Access to agents
The Commission recommended that the NCAA should develop standards for a certification process for agents — much like the NBA — and that basketball players should be permitted to meet with NCAA-certified agents, as early as their high school years, to receive professional advice without losing amateur eligibility.
The Commission also called for the NCAA to appoint a vice president-level position to develop standards to govern such a process.
The Commission called for the NCAA to create independent investigation and judiciary arms for the enforcement of serious violations, as opposed to the current peer-review system that relies on fellow member institutions and league commissioners to make final judgments on major infractions cases.
Rice, in her briefing, proposed stiffer penalties for member schools and individuals – such as coaches and athletic administrators – that break the rules. Increased “competition penalties” — i.e. postseason bans — and financial penalties were recommended.
“Currently, the rewards for breaking the rules far outweigh the risk,” Rice said.
Emmert, who announced the formation of the Commission on College Basketball last fall, has repeatedly said the NCAA will move swiftly to implement the recommendations made by the Commission, promising to act on as many of those recommendations as possible by the start of the 2018-19 season.
Further discussion among college presidents and NCAA officials is already taking place, and the NCAA will meet again in August to finalize many of the Commission’s plans.
Rice, in her statement Wednesday, attributed part of the current state of college basketball to the failings of the NCAA itself, noting that the governing body is, in reality, controlled by its member schools.
“It is the sum total of its member institutions. When those institutions and those responsible for leading them short-circuit rules, ethics and norms in order to achieve on-the-court success, they alone are responsible. Too often, these individuals hide behind (the NCAA), when they are the ones most responsible for the degraded state of intercollegiate athletics, in general, and college basketball, in particular.”
The ball is now in their court to try and change college basketball for the better.