What do the new college basketball rules mean for recruits and student-athletes?
Change in college basketball and the governance structure within the NCAA was going to occur.
Anyone who thought otherwise wasn’t paying attention when the FBI announced its findings from an investigation into the sport last fall, or when the Dr. Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on College Basketball issued its report last April.
The status quo wasn’t going to stand.
But, like in any massive membership-led organization where no two parties have the exact same interest, change isn’t going to happen overnight or occur without debate and disagreement.
And not all of the change will happen immediately. The likeness issue that still hovers over the membership is unsolved, but is being debated and will continue to be a topic of conversation.
No decision has been made either way. Voices are being heard. Patience is needed.
But what the NCAA Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors did this week after exhaustive work from subcommittees over the past three months is another step toward more freedom and benefits.
Student-athletes have more freedom and flexibility to decide about going pro or getting a college education, and they can receive financial assistance if they leave school early and wish to return later to finish their degree. https://t.co/Ubizwm4Bkb pic.twitter.com/UBjBMZZDlh— NCAA (@NCAA) August 8, 2018
Remember, there was a time when there were strict restrictions on food availability, family travel to the Final Four and limits on summer access to players for coaches — even when they were on campus taking classes. Now you have to ignore the food in the training room or avoid the new sport-specific workout facilities (built for the players and coaches) to prevent yourself from getting better and enhancing a possible professional career.
One of the more significant legislative moves made this week is to potentially allow elite high school recruits and current college players to be represented by an agent. The agent does have to be certified by an NCAA program, just like he or she would be with the NBA Players Association. There is hope that having an agent maybe allowed in the not too distant future and more flexibility will come with the NBA draft. If the NBA and NBA players association allow players to be drafted out of high school then those elite players can get an agent in high school and while in college. If they declare for the draft and aren’t selected after going to the combine then they could go come back and get a scholarship from their same school.
The number of players that this affects will be small, but it still could stave off even one player from making a major mistake and missing out on another year in college that could better ready him to play in the NBA. Not to mention the help to continue building his own brand with another year of playing high-profile games on national television.
Schools will now be required to pay tuition, fees and books for men’s and women’s players who leave school but then return to the same school for their degree. If the school can’t pay for it then the NCAA will step in and aid. Now, most schools are apt to do this because it’s the right thing to do, and it looks good, too. But this puts more teeth into giving athletes a chance to earn that degree even after they have a professional opportunity.
The recruiting calendar has changed, but the number of days has slightly increased. This received lots of attention in July since coaches were out on the road, and organizers were being asked about the oncoming change. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the national recruiting camps were dominated by the ABCD Camp in New Jersey and the Nike All-American camp in Indianapolis. There have always been examples of drill work at these camps, in addition to big headline matchups of players like Lebron James, Sebastian Telfair and Lenny Cooke.
Change came and events evolved to being more spread out and team-oriented. No one should blanket all AAU or summer-league coaches as bad actors. There are plenty of coaches out there who are doing good work to get their players seen and evaluated, while also putting together teams.
But the Commission on College Basketball was clear – ownership of the issues had to come from a joint partnership from the NCAA membership, USA Basketball and, to some extent, the NBA.
The recruiting calendar still will have two weekends in April when a late Final Four game, the Easter holiday and the SAT/ACT test days all occur. There will be two additional weekends in June to recruit at high school or scholastic events. The hope is that states can coordinate these events and work with neighboring states if there are too few prospects.
The July calendar, the one that gets the most attention, will have a hybrid model. The first week remains untouched, with coaches able to go to the popular Peach Jam or any event that occurs that same weekend.
The second weekend was too splintered for coaches and will now go away as a recruiting weekend. Coaches will now be back on campus to work with their players or take a quick vacation with their families.
Coaches will continue to be judged on the team they have, not the one they may get. So, having more time to be back on campus when players are there is a plus. It also would allow more concentrated time to prepare for a foreign trip.
The third week in July will include four regional camps with the focus on promoting invaluable life skills, educating families or guardians on financial aid and other benefits as well as sport skill instruction and traditional five-on-five games for coaches to evaluate. This is a joint effort with the NCAA and USA Basketball. The NBA and the shoe companies were a part of the discussion when the plan was initially discussed.
So, to recap, recruits from September to June can be with their high school and AAU teams. While there has been some criticism that players will be overlooked, there actually will be more opportunities to see them at the high school and AAU level over the course of the calendar year.
Will these new rules eliminate third-party violations? Of course not. But having ownership of the sport all year was the ultimate goal, and this is a compromise. If coaches can’t go to Las Vegas the third week of July, that doesn’t mean it won’t occur. Players can still go to any certified event they want to go to, and their games and reports of their play will still be accessible in some form. The information will get out. The coaches may not be in the gym in Las Vegas, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be recruiting players who are there in some way. Organizers will figure out a new medium to get their event out to the public - just as they have in the past – and they will do so with events that are currently not available for coaches to be on site now.
Oh, and more paid visits will be allowed by prospective high school athletes as early as the summer before their junior year.
Accountability will come down harder on school presidents now, too. Presidents, chancellors and athletic directors better know what their coaches and staff are doing because new legislation means they have to oblige by monitoring rules. Presidents and chancellors can be held personally accountable, just like coaches are now, if there are rules violations. There could be longer postseason bans, suspensions and restrictions as well as fines.
And for those who wanted a third party on major enforcement cases for fear that there could be a conflict of interest with a fellow member reviewing a case – well, that is on this list of legislation, too.
Two independent groups will be appointed to oversee complex cases. That means an independent group that has no affiliation to a school or a conference will look at the case. Another group of 15 individuals that has no affiliation - people with legal and higher education backgrounds - will review the findings of the first group and then hear the case and decide on penalties.
Five public members will join the NCAA board of governors as a check and balance of the current system.
Look, there is no magic pill here. But don’t be naive and think that change wasn’t coming, that there weren’t members of a broad swath of the college athletics community that weren’t working hard to try and come up with palatable legislative moves.
There is still a process. And like Washington D.C., it can get bogged down in the parameters of the organization all schools agreed to join.
But steps were made to make things better.
Let it breathe a bit, see if it works, before reacting and judging without some data first.
When the 30-second shot clock was adopted, some coaches squawked, some clapped and others wanted 24 seconds instead.
Pleasing thousands is not easy. But paying attention to the winds of change helps everyone adapt.
And the game and the sport will always go on and be larger than any one administrator, coach, president, or NCAA staffer.
The game always goes on.