BOZICH | NCAA changes won't fix college basketball money problem
By Rick Bozich
On Wednesday, the NCAA moved to modernize the flow of top players from high school to college to the professional game. Pardon me, but I don’t believe their fixes deserve confetti and a parade.
Not if the goal is to clean up the nonsense going on in college basketball, the nonsense that has turned programs like the University of Louisville upside down over the last three years.
Follow the money, and its one-way flow.
The changes the NCAA announced Wednesday will not redirect enough of the goodies toward the players. The coaches, the administrators and the schools will still be the ones getting rich.
The players will get a modestly better deal, but not enough to stop the behind-the-scenes corruption that college basketball (and college football, another story) has winked at for years.
I’ll let an assistant coach at a perennial Top-10 program explain. He said it better than me:
“The NCAA just gave more access and power to the people who have been the problem all along: the agents. They’ve given them more control. In fact, they’ve made what they do legal.”
And what some of them do, according to this coach, is pay players and family members to control their decisions: the schools that they pick and the stay-or-go-pro choices they make.
That is a lot to unwrap. I’m not saying the NCAA launched a total air ball. Not at all.
Guys who participate in the NBA Draft Combine will be able to return to school if their names are not called in the NBA Draft. In other words, Wenyen Gabriel would have been allowed to return to Kentucky. Ditto for Troy Williams at Indiana two years ago.
That is common sense, even if it will create issues for programs who have signed recruits they expected to leave. They’ll work it out.
But the new rule would not have benefited Deng Adel and Louisville. Why? Adel was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
There is a more valuable change than that: Guys who go through the process can return to school whenever they like and complete their education without expense.
That is the way that Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana already treat their former players. That’s the way it should be.
There are traffic lights that last longer than many NBA careers. A degree, connections in the local community and an unrelenting work ethic are still a wiser path than trusting your three-point shot.
An injury can take away your playing career but not your degree. Let’s pause to applaud the NCAA for acknowledging that.
Enough applause. Time to consider the part of these changes that has coaches talking:
Giving agents more juice.
The rule change will allow “approved” players to employ agents in high school as well as in college to assist them to “make informed decisions about going pro.” The agents must be certified by the NCAA. There will be standards for their behavior. There will be consequences for their actions.
What reads like enlightened change to you reads like satire to me.
Agents are already certified by the NBA. Standards for their behavior are already in place. Consequences for their actions have already been threatened.
What’s been the result?
The current toxic mess. The NCAA cannot consistently investigate and enforce its rules with member schools and coaches. Now they’re going to make agents fall in line and follow the rules?
Agents are a problem because agents can provide something that schools and coaches are not supposed to provide: money.
The fundamental problem remains unchanged. Players and their families want to be paid. They see the outrageous money that flows through the game and laugh at the idea that tuition, room and board, books, gear and a small stipend are a fair trade for their services.
So they deal.
Let those guys go directly to professional basketball. Let everybody else commit to three years of college basketball.
The moves the NCAA announced Wednesday will change the conversation. But they won’t fix the problem.
As the assistant college coaches that I spoke with Wednesday said: giving agents their approved place in the process will not change that.
“This has the potential to make it worse,” an assistant coach said. “You’re giving agents more control. They’re going to have a greater financial stake in these kids.”
The coach laughed.
“We’ll see how long this lasts,” he said.
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