Following through on many of the Rice Commission recommendations, the NCAA announced sweeping changes to college basketball’s recruiting guidelines on Wednesday.
The summer recruiting calendar is changing to, in the words of the NCAA, reduce outside influences. The shoe companies can continue to hold tournaments all summer, but college coaches won’t be allowed to attend the majority of them.
That rule change comes in response to the ongoing FBI investigation of corruption in college basketball that was made public last September.
Led by Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state and Stanford provost, the commission spent the past seven months developing solutions to address the myriad problems in college basketball, which has been in a crisis since the FBI case was made public.
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“The changes that we’ve adopted will have a positive impact on college basketball and, more importantly, the student-athletes who compete in college basketball,” said Bud Peterson, the Georgia Tech president who chairs the NCAA Board of Governors that approved the changes on Wednesday.
Though the Rice Commission had suggested the NCAA take a more proactive stance when dealing with academic fraud as it relates to athletes, no changes were made in regard to that in this initial wave of reform. However a separate group, the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Academics, began taking a new look at academic integrity rules earlier this summer.
The NCAA did announce Wednesday it will seek more transparency on outside income coaches receive. Effective immediately, any such income that totals more than $600 must be reported to their schools.
Other changes the NCAA announced on Wednesday include allowing high school athletes to take more official visits to schools and allowing both high school and college athletes to retain agents without forfeiting their college eligibility.
Beyond basketball, the NCAA also adopted sweeping changes to the enforcement and infractions process, stiffening penalties and requiring cooperation from school employees, while adding outsiders, unaffiliated with member schools, to its board of directors for the first time.
“The board has now adopted the recommendations of the Rice Commission and I couldn’t be more pleased with that outcome,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “They are, in general, aimed at eliminating some of the corrosive elements we’ve seen in college basketball that the federal investigation highlighted. We are trying to strengthen the integrity of the game and strengthen the accountability of all of us that work inside the game. And, at the same time, provide student-athletes with much more flexibility and freedom about their decisions, whether they are going to pursue amateur sports or professional sports.”
Earlier this summer, ACC commissioner John Swofford cautioned that even these final proposals remain a work in progress.
“We’ll need to understand that in taking those concepts in a very short period of time and turning them into legislative protocol, doing it that quickly, I think we can expect that a year from now or two years from now, it may need tweaking some,” Swofford said. “But I think the bones of it are outstanding, and I think we’re at a point in college basketball where we need to take those steps.”
Duke athletic director Kevin White, a member of the Division I men’s basketball committee, also stressed this changes are just the start.
“These changes represent the first steps in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing college basketball,” White said in a statement. “To be sure, we support the NCAA’s commitment to keeping the well-being of the student-athlete at the center of attention. Now, we have to carefully assess the impact of these changes on our institutions and engage in a dialogue with the NCAA on the best way to meet our shared goals. Operationalizing the ideals that led to today’s adopted measures becomes our next major challenge.”
The centerpiece event of the revamped recruiting calendar will be new NCAA youth development camps in late July. The NCAA, USA Basketball, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association will collaborate to identify and invite players and run the camps.
In addition, coaches will be allowed to attend and evaluate recruits at the NBPA Top 100 camp each June in Charlottesville, Va., for the first time. Coaches may also attend events the last two weekends of June that are approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations, organized by high school coaches or their organizations and held at middle school, high school or college facilities.
The calendar does allow for coaches to attend one weekend evaluation event in early July, which is when the Nike Peach Jam is held annually in North Augusta, S.C. Adidas holds its Gauntlet league summer championships in July as well. But that will be the only time coaches can watch players at non-scholastic (AAU) events that month.
To further monitor such events, the NCAA is pursuing agreements with apparel companies requiring them to make annual disclosures regarding their involvement in youth basketball. All youth basketball activities must be certified by the NCAA and any potential rules violations must be reported to the NCAA.
The NCAA hopes to finalize the new agreements with the apparel companies within the next six to 12 months.
At the same time, the NCAA will allow rules to be relaxed regarding agents paying for meals and transportation for athletes and their families.
According to the NCAA, agents can pay for meals and transportation for players and their families if the expenses are related to the agent selection process. The student cannot miss class, and the money must be spent where the student lives or attends school. Additionally, high school and college student-athletes and their families can have meals, transportation and lodging paid for by an agent if those expenses are associated with meetings with the agent or a pro team.
With the NBA and its player’s union discussing changing draft rules so that players are eligible immediately after high school, the NCAA has a rule in place to allow players to retain agents without losing potential college eligibility.
Once the so-called one-and-done rule is abolished, high school players who have been identified as elite prospects by USA Basketball will be allowed to employ an agent beginning July 1 prior to their senior year of high school.
College basketball players will now be allowed to retain an agent beginning at the end of any season in which they request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.
Players who attend the NBA scouting combine but go undrafted will have the option of returning to their previous schools. They must declare their intention to return by 5 p.m. on the Monday following the NBA Draft. They must also be academically eligible.
Official visits can begin Aug. 1, prior to a recruit’s junior year of high school. While they can only visit a school once each year, they are allowed:
-- Five official visits between Aug. 1 and the end of their junior year of high school.
-- Five official visits between the end of their junior year and Oct. 15 after high school graduation.
-- Five official visits between Oct. 15 after high school graduation and the remainder of their college eligibility.
As for unofficial visits, which are made at the recruit’s expense, they can’t begin before Aug. 1 of the student’s sophomore year of high school.
The changes to enforcement are the most far-reaching, since they affect every sport. University employees, including chancellors and presidents, must add contract language requiring their cooperation with NCAA investigations, essentially giving the NCAA subpoena power. NCAA investigators can now use information uncovered by criminal or in-house investigations -- like North Carolina’s Wainstein Report -- freely, and a new alternative enforcement process will use people unaffiliated with NCAA member schools to investigate and adjudicate complex cases.
“That will both streamline and expedite decision processes around sanctions that may or may not be imposed,” Emmert said. “It also makes it easier to gather facts and not have contradictory facts in some of these cases.”
Penalties for breaking NCAA rules were also stiffened, with postseason bans as long as five years, coach suspensions that can last longer than one season and permanent show-cause orders that would essentially forbid violators from working in college athletics again.
In September, the FBI announced that it had arrested 10 people in connection with college basketball related bribery and corruption schemes. At least six college basketball programs and possibly many more were said to be involved in two different efforts. One involved paying players upwards of $150,000 in exchange for their commitment to certain adidas-sponsored universities. The other involved coaches receiving payments to steer players to agents.