CRAWFORD | Will Rice Commission offer real NCAA reform, or damage control?
Will the commission headed by Condoleeza Rice offer real reform, or damage control, to the troubled sport of college basketball?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The advance billing for college basketball reform recommendations from the so-called Rice Commission, due out in a Wednesday morning meeting with the NCAA Board of Governors and Board of Directors in Indianapolis, is that the change will be substantial, and the status quo will be challenged.
The group, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, has been tasked with cleaning up a sport beset by academic scandal and an FBI investigation into corruption, bribery, and shoe company payola. It was created in October, in part reacting to that investigation.
NCAA president Mark Emmert says he expects “strong recommendations.” ACC commissioner John Swofford told reporters he thinks it could be a day that changes college sports for the better.
But what, honestly, can the committee propose that has not already been on the table for years? Will this be a chance to reclaim control of the game, or merely damage control?
Will, for instance, the commission propose putting shoe companies back into their shoeboxes by telling the NCAA to stop its sanctioning of their summer events and proposing that it rule their funding of grassroots basketball illegal for the purposes of prospective NCAA athletes?
Not likely. And probably not practical.
Will it roll back amateurism principles, allow athletes to make money from their likenesses, sign autographs, receive certain benefits that they can generate as a result of their athletics notoriety? Perhaps. That seems to be a ship that is sailing in, or one that has already left the harbor and is chugging along, if you read the recent FBI indictments into shoe companies funneling money to recruits.
This could be the NCAA’s chance to legalize behavior that has been commonplace (and impermissible) up to now, and perhaps avoid a fractured membership moving forward. But it also opens a box of how much compensation is permissible, and what is off limits, and how will it work, and what penalties will be in place for cheating?
Will it beef up the NCAA’s enforcement process, which is capable of throwing the book at Notre Dame when it investigates itself for NCAA violations in tutoring football players, but is incapable of sanctioning North Carolina when it fails to fall on its sword for 18 years of institutional and systematic academic malfeasance?
And does the NCAA membership even want the NCAA’s enforcement process to have more teeth? Isn’t the system in place already what the member schools and their presidents have put together to pay lip service to fair play without actually having muscle to enforce it?
What other problems? One and done? What possibly can the NCAA do about it? As long as the NBA’s age limit is intact, the NCAA will serve as its farm system, with players getting national TV exposure and gaining marketability for one year before ascending to the league. Only the NBA can change this, unless the Rice commission were to take the advice of Purdue president Mitch Daniels, who wrote in a Washington Post op-ed piece, “Allow players to depart early for the NBA, but the scholarships they received would be required to remain vacant for the balance of their four-year terms. Coaches who want to chase that next championship with full-time players masquerading as students could do so, but the following few seasons might be tough with rosters filled with walk-ons.”
That’s not going to happen.
And what about the biggest scandal of all, lurking beneath the surface, of schools and the NCAA itself allowing sexual assault to proliferate without acting, and in fact enabling it by all too often not supporting victims or sweeping it under the rug? Will Rice’s commission even address the topic?
One thing is certain: Doing nothing is not an option. The problems in the game have been ignored long enough.
Even a start will be welcome. More damage control will not.
Regardless of what is said, as this column attests, we’re still likely to have more questions than answers.
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