Lentz: NCAA Rule Changes

Former+University+of+Louisville+Men%27s+Basketball+head+coach+Rick+Pitino+addressing+the+media+during+the+Final+Four+of+his+2013+NCAA+Championship+season+that+eventually+had+to+be+vacated+due+to+a+recruiting+and+sex+scandal+involving+the+team+and+Pitino.
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Lentz: NCAA Rule Changes

Former University of Louisville Men's Basketball head coach Rick Pitino addressing the media during the Final Four of his 2013 NCAA Championship season that eventually had to be vacated due to a recruiting and sex scandal involving the team and Pitino.

Former University of Louisville Men's Basketball head coach Rick Pitino addressing the media during the Final Four of his 2013 NCAA Championship season that eventually had to be vacated due to a recruiting and sex scandal involving the team and Pitino.

By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: PressDay20034 copy) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Former University of Louisville Men's Basketball head coach Rick Pitino addressing the media during the Final Four of his 2013 NCAA Championship season that eventually had to be vacated due to a recruiting and sex scandal involving the team and Pitino.

By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: PressDay20034 copy) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: PressDay20034 copy) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Former University of Louisville Men's Basketball head coach Rick Pitino addressing the media during the Final Four of his 2013 NCAA Championship season that eventually had to be vacated due to a recruiting and sex scandal involving the team and Pitino.

Eric Lentz, Sports Editor

Is the NCAA treating their athletes to the level they deserve? Hold your breath. After the FBI’s probe into the NCAA’s college basketball teams that uncovered recruiting scandals all over the country last September, the NCAA finally did, at the very least, something.

Between then and now a few things have happened: NCAA President Mark Emmert, to save face, created the Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, which stripped Louisville of their 2013 title because of Rick Pitino’s role in recruiting scandals discovered in the FBI probe, and is set to serve penalties against at least three dozen schools reports Kevin Flaherty of 247Sports.com.

Well, Wednesday, August 8, the NCAA made more decisions and rule changes when it comes to the entitlement of their players. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports detailed these rule changes as “the first actual legislative change as a result of the FBI’s ongoing case.” At first glance they look like a good step in the right direction, but do they really do anything for the collegiate athletes who make them their money?

A large part of the rule changes focus on recruiting calendars, investigative processes, and punishment processes, such as holding school presidents and chancellors responsible for the actions in their school’s athletic department, college coaches being allowed to attend the NBA Players Association Top 1oo camps every June, shrinking the non-scholastic AAU event viewing period weekends from three to two, and having all school chancellors, presidents, and athletic staff comply with any and all future investigations through a clause in their contracts. This gives the NCAA a power similar to how subpoenas work, which is something that they haven’t had before.

What I want to focus on primarily is this single rule: that any college basketball player who was invited to the NBA Draft Combine, stayed in the NBA Draft but then went undrafted now will have a chance to go back to college. As I said, on the surface this can really help limit the amount of derailment that follows college basketball players taking a chance on themselves and zeroing out. The problem lies within the fine print. This option is for players invited to the combine, and that the undrafted players will have until the next Monday to make a decision.

With the NBA Draft always being on a Thursday, they give 18 to 22-year-olds four days to decide to go back to college or to continue their pursuit of their dream of playing in the NBA. Again, on the surface this should be an easy choice, go back to college and try again next year, but a lot can happen in a year: injuries, poor team conditions, or falling victim to the “ageist” ideals of the NBA’s front offices. It is way more attractive to go for an immediate paycheck, so it isn’t an easy decision.

When I say “ageist ideals,” I mean when front offices prefer younger players than older players. The younger the player is, the more room for possible growth. Also, NBA Summer League has been the most popular thing in July for the past three years, trumping mid-season MLB more and more, and these NBA teams always go after the undrafted guys to fill their Summer League team rosters. If you succeed in the Summer League, it is very easy to get a training camp deal or a two-way contract deal with a team.

Look at Markel Crawford for an example. He played for the Memphis Grizzlies Summer League team in Las Vegas and averaged 9.57 points per game while shooting 3.43 threes a game at a 45.8% clip (stats via RealGM). The former Memphis Tiger/Ole Miss Rebel now has a training camp deal with the Memphis Grizzlies to fight for a roster spot.

It is important to remember that this rule only applies to the NBA Draft Combine invites. There were only 69 combine invites last year. Why not open this option up to all players who are eligible for the draft? As the new rule stands, the pool of athletes eligible is simply too small: 69 combine invites last year. 11 withdrew before the Draft to return back to college.* One, Brian Bowen, withdrew to pursue a guaranteed professional career internationally. So now 57 of the combine athletes are left to be drafted out of 60. Of those 57 last year, everyone was drafted outside of nine guys who went on to play in the NBA Summer League and sign Training Camp deals or two-way deals.

The NCAA never created this rule with the intent of it being used. They are not known for taking care of their players to the level that they are deserved; in fact, they are known for the opposite: for the exploitation of their “student-athletes.” There are so many issues surrounding how they take care of their players. This puff-piece of a rule change brings no surprise to me. If anything it just makes me question why and how they continue to have the power they do over their players. Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, has said he hopes that by the 2021 draft the “one-and-done” rule, that you must be 19 to play in the NBA (essentially a year removed from high school), is changed to lower NBA Draft eligibility, just in time for Lebron James, Jr., to enter the league. This is not a long way away.

More changes are sure to come once the NBA decides on things. Players are starting to become more aware that the NCAA is not the only way. There’s the route Brian Bowen took, which was international basketball. Then, there is Darius Bazley, a top-10 class of 2018 recruit who is a projected lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He chose to go directly through the GLeague, the NBA’s farm system similar to MLB’s MiLB, so he could immediately be paid and work as a professional without restrictions. If you look at college basketball five years ago, and compare it to five years from now, we will certainly see an evolved product. For better or for worse is yet to be seen.

*Keep in mind, once a “student-athlete” hires an agent, they are no longer allowed to play in the NCAA because they rescind their “amateur” status. This terminology is very important when it comes to the NCAA finding excuses to not pay their players. I encourage you to watch “$chooled: The Price of College Sports” for the most in depth analysis on this topic.

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