A couple of weeks ago when the Commission on College Basketball laid out its recommendations, it was universally panned – at best, it was a half-hearted effort to improve things around the margins, but it did nothing to address the main issues. Anything that didn’t truly address money in the sport and the tenants of amateurism that the NCAA is clinging to was simply going to be a waste of everyone’s time, as I mentioned in Part I. Now, just a couple of weeks later, Condoleezza Rice appears to be embarking on a public relations campaign of sorts to try her hand at revisionist history (which is also the name of an excellent podcast by Malcolm Gladwell that’s just starting its second season).
On Wednesday in an interview with USA Today, Rice said that she believed the NCAA rules were “incomprehensible,” and that, “I think people may have looked at the fact that we said there’s a legal framework to be developed and said, ‘Oh, well, maybe they’re punting on this.’ Nobody was intending to punt on it.”
The framework for name, image and likeness she is referring to was briefly touched upon in the Commission’s report, but only with the acknowledgement that there needed to be legal clarity before there could be anything more meaningful. Two comments on that:
- Although I’m not a lawyer, I’m not aware of any legal reason that prevents an organization from making changes while litigation is ongoing – for example, Takata recalled their airbags and made design changes to them even though a variety of lawsuits were pending and being filed.
- If the NCAA’s rules were so incomprehensible and the commission was tasked with being bold in their addressing the variety of sordid issues that are present in the sport, why even bother with half-measures? Why even bother coming up with misguided and misapplied “solutions” that don’t accomplish much of anything other than synchronized eye-rolling from everyone listening?
So, Condoleezza, you may not have intended to punt on the issue, but regardless of your attempt at revisionist history, you punted. The Commission on College Basketball is the Ray Guy of commissions. Better than an ex-Duke player’s mother comparing you to slavery, I guess…
Rant over. On to the proposals and how they might impact…
Like I mentioned at the end of Part I, the honest answer is that we’ll have to wait and see what the impacts might be, as many of the commission’s recommendations are fairly vague and will need to be fleshed-out and adopted before there is complete clarity. But below is the full list of recommendations along with my thoughts on how they might impact the Jayhawks:
- Work with the NBA to lift the league’s so-called one-and-done rule that requires players be at least 19 years old and a year removed from high school to be draft eligible. This recommendation is incredibly broad and can be implemented in a variety of ways. Despite this, it stands to reason that even though the absolute top talent might go straight to the NBA from high school, KU will still be in the mix for the best talent that will be going to college. Overall impact to KU: Neutral
- Allow players to enter the draft out of high school or after any college season, and to return to their school if they go undrafted. It will be interesting to see how this will be implemented. Will there be any flexibility for players to return to school if a coach has already filled all, available scholarships? If not, will the NCAA allow either “cut” athletes or athletes wanting to return the ability to attend a different school without penalty? Despite these unknowns, the fact that KU is such an elite program with extensive ties and is well-versed in managing the roster impacts of athletes wanting to play professionally means this shouldn’t be a significant issue. Overall impact to KU: Neutral to Positive, given that some elite-level talent might not have the opportunity they thought they might and return to campus.
- Create degree completion programs, with the NCAA paying for players to finish their degree if they complete at least two years of college. Anything that can be considered a benefit to the athletes is a good thing. True, some players might leave earlier than they would otherwise if they know this program will always be available to them to take advantage of down the road, but if someone is good enough to play for KU and able to consider going pro early, completing their degree isn’t going to be a primary focus of theirs. Overall impact to KU: Neutral
- Create a vice presidential level position in the NCAA to oversee a program for certifying agents, and Allow and encourage access to certified agents to high school and college players to help athletes and their families make more informed choices about professional opportunities (these two are combined for this summary given how intertwined they are). It really is perplexing how the NCAA has worked hard to prevent & limit interactions players and families have with representation. In just about every other walk of life, given the legal complexities that may exist, we encourage people to seek counsel. Yet, for some reason, the NCAA has been able to maintain a stranglehold on this endeavor under the guise of “protecting student-athletes” when they’re (most likely) really protecting the NCAA by keeping their employees (said student-athletes) in line. Sorry – I digress… Obviously, simply giving athletes the approval for accessing agents won’t necessarily stop any illegal payments that may be going on now. Given KU’s status and current relationships, and the number of top-tier players that KU typically gets, I am assuming that we will develop strong(er) ties with many of the certified agents and that this will help in the future. I expect there to be some sort of limits or gag rules as a part of the certification process to help prevent agents from becoming runners working on behalf of certain schools, but again, I have to believe that the constant exposure to Kansas basketball will result in positive interactions. Overall impact to KU: Positive
- Create independent investigative and adjudicative body to address and resolve complex and serious cases involving NCAA violations, and Impose stiffer penalties for serious rules violations to deter future rule-breakers, including: Increased competition penalties for Level I violations to allow a five-year post-season ban; increased financial penalties for Level I violations to allow loss of all revenue sharing in postseason play for the entire period of the ban; increased penalties for a show-cause order to allow lifetime bans; increased penalties for head coach restrictions to allow bans of more than one season; increased penalties for recruiting visit violations to allow full-year visit bans, and Schools that employ a coach and administrator under a show-cause order from a previous school would be at risk to receive the harshest penalties if NCAA violations occur under that coach or administrator. Okay, these next three recommendations are a bit loaded and completely dependent upon how the current FBI probe and naming of Kansas plays out. Obviously, if Coach Self or anyone else connected to KU is found to have directly been involved with any payments, or even had knowledge about payments being made, this would be an extremely serious situation. A five-year post-season ban and subsequent forfeiture of any revenue would be an absolute killer – they really should just go ahead and call it a “death penalty”. Or at the very least a coma… College coaches might be able to avoid bans and show-cause orders by working overseas, in the NBA, starting AAU teams, working for shoe companies, etc. It might be difficult to be hired, but there are numerous examples of someone with a stained collegiate reputation who was employed in a basketball-related capacity by Someone Not Directly Affiliated With The NCAA. But the schools? Man, the schools and the athletes end up paying a heavy price, so I hope a rigorous appeals process is put in place. Even assuming nothing inappropriate was done by Self, his staff, or anyone else at KU, unfortunately simply the specter of these rules and situation with the FBI may end up impacting Kansas basketball more than we’d like. For example, top-tier recruit Romeo Langford recently announced he would be staying close to home and playing for Indiana instead of KU or Vanderbilt. Nothing outrageous there (although if I wanted to be petty, congratulations to IU on going from a First Four Out NCAA tournament team to a possible 10 seed…), at least until Langford’s father said this: “Kansas, it (the FBI investigation) pushed it out for me. Just having that name on your school. I didn’t take them out of the three verbally, but in my mind, we just didn’t want him going there and anybody asking him that type of question. So we don’t want him going to school there, we don’t care how good the basketball is.” Now, fortunately, KU had already secured a top 10 recruiting class for 2018, but for 2019 and beyond, every time a recruit hears something about the FBI investigation, chances are likely that Kansas will be mentioned in the same or next breath, as well. This could be a slow-motion car wreck that unfolds over multiple seasons, and I can’t imagine KU’s continued association with the case as it progresses through the courts won’t have some sort of impact. This also makes me wonder about whether Self thinks this might be a good time to explore NBA coaching options, but that’s a topic for another time. Overall impact to KU: A Really, Really Big Negative (at least for the near future until – hopefully – KU is cleared from the FBI investigation)
- Through their contracts, require coaches and athletic directors to comply with NCAA investigations, and Require coaches, athletic directors and university presidents to certify annually they have conducted due diligence and their athletic programs comply with NCAA rules. Although one’s initial response to these proposals might be “Duh!”, these actually have some subtleties that could directly tie to the FBI investigation. With regards to the contract compliance, it will be interesting to see how this is addressed in parallel with an individual’s rights to not self-incriminate or waive their rights to due process. As for the certification of compliance, if there is a standard set of criteria and actions that a school has to perform, could that mean that any violations found outside of that list might not be harmful to the school? For instance, athletes currently sign some basic documents saying they haven’t taken any illegal payments. If a family member received compensation unbeknownst to a scholarship athlete and the annual certification process sanctioned by the NCAA doesn’t ask the school to investigate said family member, does that mean that the school is in the clear? I’m simply asking
for Silvio De Sousaa theoretical question… Overall impact to KU: Neutral (unless the scenario I describe can apply retroactively)
- Adopt and enforce rigorous criteria for so-called non-scholastic basketball, such as summer recruiting events and AAU leagues. Event owners, sponsors and coaches must agree to financial transparency, and Ban college coaches from non-certified non-scholastic basketball events. Annnnnnnnd we’re back – With these recommendations, the commission has returned to silliness. So, just to be clear, the NCAA can’t effectively govern the sport as it currently exists and the commission think’s it’s a wise idea for them to try their hand at overseeing non-scholastic, summer, and AAU basketball? There are over 50 distinct districts and literally tens of thousands of participants in AAU that the NCAA is going to somehow wrangle – really? I’ll also be interested to see the degree of financial transparency the NCAA will be able to secure from Adidas, Nike, Under Armour, etc. I expect something along the lines of a “You first” response from the apparel companies back to the NCAA. Aside from the logistical and philosophical challenges, the cynic in me simply looks at this as a way for the NCAA to try and wrest away part of the financial pie these events provide. Overall impact to KU: Neutral
- Work with USA basketball and the NBA to create NCAA-run recruiting events in the summer, and Work with USA Basketball and the NBA to evaluate pre-college players. Like above, this strikes me as just a way for the NCAA to get their cut, but I’m separating this from the AAU and whatever other “non-scholastic” basketball events there are because of one fact: Coach Self will lead his first USA Basketball team at the 2018 FIBA Americas Under 18 Championship from June 11-17 in St. Catherines, Canada. Although I’m not aware of any further commitments beyond this, I have to believe this would be like other coaches who have been involved with USA Basketball – they tend to stay involved in some capacity (as long as they are successful, of course). If this becomes implemented, I have to believe that Self’s involvement and stature will help in KU’s recruiting efforts. Overall impact to KU: Positive
- Adopt recommended rule changes made by the National Association of Basketball Coaches that increase interaction between college coaches and recruits. The recommendation is supposed to help college coaches in their communications so they can hopefully minimize the influence of third-parties, and since Coach Self was the President of the NABC this past year and helped to drive this recommendation, I’m simply going to assume it’s a good thing for Kansas. Overall impact to KU: Positive
- Add five public members with full voting privileges to the NCAA Board of Governors, currently comprised of 16 university presidents. This might be another sneaky-meaningful recommendation that could have significant impact depending on how they implement this. One of the reasons for the commission to suggest this is because of how the current Board of Governors can become entangled in issues by virtue of schools representing themselves, their conferences, and their divisions (i.e. Division I, II or III). These varying perspectives and conflicts apparently have contributed to some of the current inertia in the NCAA. It will be interesting to see what members are included – a more favorable leaning towards the “major conferences” will help KU, whereas more representation for the mid-majors or small schools might hurt KU. Overall impact to KU: Neutral
So there you have it – how the recommendations might impact KU, for good, bad, or indifferent. Obviously time will tell, but depending upon how they’re implemented, even these half-measures that avoid The Biggest Problem With The NCAA (how it defines amateurism and only restricts the players’ access to any money, ensuring a continued “black market” and shady shenanigans) might have lasting impact on the Jayhawks.