Last spring, as college basketball was capping off a season clouded by an FBI investigation into corruption in recruiting, a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was making its recommendations on how to clean up the game.
On Wednesday, the NCAA announced it was adopting many of the reforms proposed by the commission, including allowing players to return to school if they are not selected in the NBA Draft and permitting more access to players from agents.
“I think they’re great,” Oakland University coach Greg Kampe said. “I was on the ad hoc committee for this and I got to hear a lot of what was going on. Everything is being done to try and improve the game.”
The NCAA's board of governors and Division I board of directors also voted to introduce more rigorous certification requirements for summer amateur basketball events; impose longer postseason bans, suspensions and increased recruiting restrictions for coaches who break rules; and require schools to provide tuition, fees and books assistance to players who left early and wanted to return to school within 10 years.
“These changes will promote integrity in the game, strengthen accountability and prioritize the interest of student-athletes over every other factor,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “We remain committed to promoting fairness in college sports and creating an environment that will champion the success of student-athletes.”
The reforms adopted have been widely supported. At the Big Ten’s football media days in Chicago late last month, commissioner Jim Delany offered his conference’s support but understood the new rules are just a first step.
“In general, we support those recommendations,” Delany said. “I think most of them are very constructive, but I think the proof will be in the pudding. We didn't get ourselves here because of a failure of a regulatory system.
"We have a culture that I think we've been unable to wrap our arms around and ensure integrity in the recruitment process, call it player procurement, recruitment, call it what you will; there's a lot of suspicion there.”
The cloud around that suspicion started to clear thanks to the FBI investigation, but while there seems to be solid support for allowing players to return to school if not drafted, not everyone is on board with allowing more access to agents.
The rule changes allow players to work with an agent while declaring for the NBA Draft as long as they have requested an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee on their draft prospects. The rules would also allow elite high-school players to work with an agent — approved by the NCAA — if the NBA removes its one-and-done rule.
Agents would be allowed to cover some expenses such as meals and transportation tied to meetings or workouts with pro teams. The agent would no longer be permitted to work on the player’s behalf if the player returned to school.
Kampe thinks the rule makes sense.
“I think it’s a must because now you can control it,” Kampe said. “What was happening was we had these rules, ‘You can’t do it. You can’t do it.’ But it was going on behind the scenes and you couldn’t stop it. Now, it’s like any law. You enact a law to control it but even the law won’t stop it but now we have a better chance to control it.”
Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins isn’t so sure.
Hawkins said he believes the rule change intended to give the player better information about his NBA prospects would, in fact, do the opposite.
“What I worry about there is they come on campus and say, ‘If you sign with me I can get you on the Lakers. I got a contact kind-of-thing,’ and that’s just not the way it works,” Hawkins said. “The way we’re been doing it right now, which is the kid can declare for the draft then gauge from an NBA team, go to workouts with different teams and get feedback and I think that’s a good thing. I think it has worked.
“I’m not big on that because I just think it’s misguided. They don’t have a real good grip on the way things work and there was a reason a long time ago agents had limited access and it was because kids were getting bad information. So anything that’s not good for the kid, anything that’s not good for the student-athlete or could to lead to misleading information I’m not in favor of.”
Hawkins also wonders about the push away from the AAU model of summer basketball. Now, camps run by the NCAA and USA Basketball will be the focus as well as the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp in mid-June.
It might work fine for the elite players and the top programs in the nation, but for other players and mid-major programs it could have a negative effect.
“We have kids at mid-majors — Oakland, Eastern, Central, Detroit — that we have seen that would not be on our team without playing on some of these AAU teams, if you’re not invited to the top workouts," Hawkins said. "These are kids we have seen and not to mention a couple hundred Division II programs out there that all have 10 scholarships, you’re limiting them as well.
"I just don’t think it’s in the best interest of the kids, and over a few bad actors. What we’re trying to do is legislate integrity and you can’t do that. It just can’t be done. If there’s bad out there bad is gonna find bad to do. That’s one of the big issues.
"All of this comes down to something really simple — ‘Hey, stop cheating.’”