Officials from Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State have formally notified Bob Gibbons that his annual and eagerly awaited Memorial Day club basketball tournament cannot be held on their campuses this year because of an NCAA rule change.
Last week, the NCAA formally approved a rule barring Division I schools from conducting non-scholastic competitions on their campuses in men's basketball.
That includes Gibbons' tournament, which is bringing top youth club teams to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area for the 18th time this year from May 27-29.
Gibbons has relied heavily on gyms at the three Triangle-area ACC schools as venues for the event, which showcases some of the top high school-aged talent in the nation. Gibbons said he plans now to use high schools and private gyms in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill to accommodate his teams.
"We're disappointed, and particularly with the discriminatory nature of this legislation," Gibbons said. "How really can they allow girls to participate on campuses and not boys?"
The rule applies only to boys' basketball.
At issue is the idea that holding high-profile tournaments on college campuses amounts to a free unofficial visit from top prospects for the colleges playing host to the events.
"I think it's a good rule because those events basically turn into unofficial visits," said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, "and [the rule] creates a level playing field."
Gibbons isn't convinced that his event provides a recruiting advantage for Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State. He said the overwhelming majority of the players in the Tournament of Champions never will have a chance to be offered scholarship by any of the three ACC schools.
Each year, Gibbons' event brings 128 teams from throughout the country comprised of more than 1,500 players to the Triangle. Parents, friends and fans hoping to spot the next NBA superstar also flock to the gyms, and media and talent evaluators watch carefully to see which players emerge as the best against superior competition.
Last year, 12 of the 18 gyms Gibbons used for the tournament were on the campuses of the Triangle ACC schools. Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, North Carolina's Smith Center and N.C. State's Reynolds Coliseum were favorite and historic venues for young players coming to town for the holiday weekend.
Other Division I schools that have played host to club events in recent years include West Virginia, Akron, Kent State, Cleveland State, Saint Louis and Arkansas-Little Rock.
ESPN.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep understands the desire to eliminate recruiting advantages but says finding appropriate facilities for big events isn't easy.
"I think it's a little short-sighted to be honest with you," Telep said of the new rule. "Because basketball courts don't grow on trees. And some of our better facilities are on college campuses. And I just don't see this unbelievable [recruiting] benefit."
The NBA Players Association camp, which Telep runs each summer at the University of Virginia, will not be affected by the new rule. That's because the rule exempts events that signed contracts before Oct. 29, 2009.
Telep said the players association camp has a long-term contract with Virginia that was signed before that date, and he's "very excited" about that in view of the recent developments.
Gibbons, meanwhile, is scrambling to put together his tournament. He said response from teams and coaches remains strong because the tournament has provided strong competition in the past.
But one of the allures of the Tournament of Champions - playing on the floors that Michael Jordan, David Thompson and Grant Hill called home - has been lost.
"It's an opportunity for them to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Gibbons said.
But Greenberg said there are enough venues away from Division I campuses to provide good facilities for club tournaments.
Telep said that the new rule may make one such facility - such as Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. - the capital of the grassroots basketball world.
"I think a lot of our basketball facilities exist on college campuses," Telep said, "and I think it's disappointing that we won't be able to use those anymore."
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