By Matt Norlander
(CBS Sports)- If college basketball is seeking change, it may need help from those outside the NCAA including the NBA and shoe companies.
The Commission on College Basketball released a six-months-in-the-making 60-page report Wednesday that analyzed the state of the sport and made its most urgent proposals for change. The commission, led by Condoleezza Rice, is comprised of 12 people including NBA legends David Robinson and Grant Hill and was formed by the NCAA in response to the FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.
From the report:
“It is the overwhelming assessment of the commission that the state of men’s college basketball is deeply troubled. The levels of corruption and deception are now at a point that they threaten the very survival of the college game as we know it.”
Rice, who is a former Secretary of State and was once a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, spoke in Indianapolis on Wednesday morning in front of assembled media and dozens of NCAA and collegiate athletic representatives.
“Whatever the outcome of the legal process, radical changes are long overdue,” the report reads.
NCAA President Mark Emmert catalyzed this commission last October, shortly after the FBI’s unheard of investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting went public.
While many wondered if the commission would opt to recommend that college players be allowed to earn money off their likeness while still in college, that is not concern of the commission at this point. Such action was not recommended, as Rice cited ongoing legal matters pertaining to the amateurism model. The other looming curiosity: Would the commission deem it appropriate, particularly in the wake of the FBI scandal, to allow players to begin professional relationships with agents? That, in fact, is on the table.
Here’s what the Commission is recommending:
1. End one-and-done rule
This is, of course, an NBA rule. The commission is calling on the NBA and its Players’ Association to end a rule that has been in place for 12 years. Since 2006, the NBA has mandated that eligibility for its draft, and to play in the league, come with prerequisites: Players either be 19 years old or a year removed from finishing high school.
The commission’s belief is that it’s only just to allow the most talented basketball players to be able to declare for the NBA right away. Rice said Wednesday morning that if the NBA/NBAPA opts not to change its rule to allow high schoolers to go pro, freshmen ineligibility will be among the things the commission considers putting forth to the NBA.
Rice also said the commission “seriously considered” the option of the so-called baseball rule, citing that it would potentially keep players who develop into NBA-ready prospects “in school against their will.”
2. Allow undrafted underclassmen return to school
The commission put a heavy emphasis on the collegiate model and the lifelong benefits of earning a college degree.
“Our focus has been to strengthen the collegiate model,” Rice said Monday morning at the Commission’s press conference.
Because of this, it suggests that if players who declare for the draft don’t get drafted, those players should remain eligible to return to college basketball if they don’t still opt to immediately pursue a career in the NBA. This suggestion also requires rule adjustments from the NBA and its Players Association, as rules currently allow for undrafted players to become free agents and allow them to join playing in the league at any point afterward.
3. Agents should be allowed
It is currently against NCAA rules for college prospects and college players to establish formal relationships with agents. If the NCAA listens to the commission’s suggestion, that will no longer be the case. But this change will also require the NCAA and NBA working hand-in-hand, as the NBA is the entity that certifies agents. According to Rice and the rest of the members of the commission, the NCAA would be better suited by getting into the certification business as well.
“We recommend that the NCAA and its member institutions develop strict standards for certifying agents and allow only those NCAA-certified agents to engage with student-athletes at an appropriate point in their high school careers as determined by the NCAA,” Rice said Wednesday. “The NCAA should appoint a vice president-level executive who, among other responsibilities, would develop these standards and administer this program. We further recommend that the NCAA incentivize better behavior from agents by decertifying any agent who participates in an NCAA rules violation and also deeming any student-athlete who enters into an agreement with a non-certified agent ineligible.”
4. Significantly increase enforcement penalties
In order to bring more seriousness, and fear, to those breaking the rules, the commission suggested an increased level of punishment for violators. They are:
1. Increase the competition penalties for Level I violations to allow a five-year postseason ban.
2. Increase the financial penalties for Level I violations to allow loss of all revenue sharing in postseason play, including revenue from the NCAA Tournament.
3. Increase the penalties for a show-cause order to allow bans of more than one season
4. Increase the restrictions on head coaches to allow bans of more than one season
5. Increase the penalties for recruiting visit violations to allow full-year visit bans
Some of this echoes sentiment made by coaches who spoke to CBS Sports last season.
Rice also said, “The NCAA should create independent investigative and adjudicative arms to address and resolve complex and serious cases involving violation of NCAA rules.”
This would mean something significant: It would removed the philosophical ideal of the peer-review model, which is how the NCAA has handled infractions cases for decades.
5. Overhaul the summer-league/so-called AAU enterprise
As things stand now, the majority of spring and summer non-scholastic basketball events (commonly referred to as AAU tournaments) are run by the three major shoe companies: Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. The commission believes, in order to clean up recruiting, the NCAA, the NBA and USA Basketball should be ambitious in starting its own spring and summer circuits.
Relatedly, Rice called out the big apparel companies’ complicitness in this issue.
“The commission today calls on the apparel companies to significantly increase their transparency and accountability efforts,” Rice said. “These are public companies. It appears to us, however, that apparel companies may not have effective controls in place for their spending in non-scholastic basketball. These public companies should be concerned about how their money is being used. I have served on quite a few public boards, and I can tell you, this should be an area of concern.”
Now we wait what the NCAA does in response to this. Emmert has publicly stated that he wants change voted into action before the start of the fall semester. It is the commission’s recommendation that these changes be implemented as soon as possible as well. But the Board of Governors still must review these proposals, and NCAA membership must clear each item before any changes come to the NCAA’s rulebook.