It has been seven months since the unseemly underbelly of college basketball was exposed by the FBI's arrest of 10 people in a still-unfolding investigation into recruiting fraud and corruption.
All the hand-wringing and declarations that change is on the way reached a crescendo this past week when the Commission on College Basketball, formed in the wake of the arrests that included four Division I assistant coaches and led by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, released the recommendations gleaned from its unenviable challenge of attempting to clean up the game.
The reviews generally haven't been great since the report was released Wednesday. There were obvious nuggets, like the call to end the NBA's one-and-done rule, or recommending that players be allowed access to agents while still in school. Most of the talking points, however, fell short of advocating for the sort of sweeping change that might alter the strict model of amateurism the NCAA defiantly refuses to tweak.
It is worth noting these merely were recommendations. It remains to be seen which points will actually become rules, and what form those changes might take. Still, change has to start somewhere, and as first steps go the recommendations formed by Commission on College Basketball was a reasonable one.
• Ending the one-and-done. I'm 100 percent on board with this. There is zero reason, beyond the NBA's desire to use NCAA basketball as a developmental ground, that a 19-year old kid can be deemed more prepared for the pro stage than an 18-year old. Getting rid of the rule would allow the best of the best to head straight to the pros while leaving the college game to those who genuinely want to be there.
However, the commission's focus on the one-and-done rule as the primary scourge of the game is laughable. Cheating occurred before the rule. It will continue when it's gone. The corruption marring the sport has become a fundamental part of the system. It won't be fixed by simply allowing the nation's top recruits to go pro immediately.
• Harsher punishment for cheaters. An obvious one deserving kudos. The slaps on the wrist given to coaches caught cheating aren't detriments to the potential benefits of landing a program-changing talent. Make coaches think twice before bending the rules. Along these lines, the recommendation the NCAA enlist some sort of independent arm to handle its investigations is long overdue.
• Allowing players to return to college if they aren't drafted. This is a tricky one, but it's a good thought. Currently players who declared for the draft have until May 30 to decide if they will remain in the draft pool. This year the draft is on June 21, meaning college teams will have to hold an open scholarship for another three or so weeks. No college coach wants his roster in flux into late June, but oh well. Given the proliferation of the postseason transfer market, this merely extends the spring recruiting season a few weeks. Programs will adjust.
• Revisiting freshmen eligibility. One suggestion in the commission's report is to possibly revisit the idea if immediate freshman eligibility if the NBA doesn't alter it's one-and-done rule. The NCAA abolished this rule in 1968 for all sports but football and basketball, then followed suit with those sports four years later. It was a dumb rule when it was rescinded 50 years ago, and making freshmen ineligible now would be even more ridiculous.
• Promoting grassroots basketball. This is a great one in theory, yet one that seems difficult, if not impossible, to fully implement. The NCAA want to curb the influence of apparel companies...the same apparel companies that receive multi-million dollar deals with NCAA institutions. Working with USA basketball to create NCAA-sanctioned recruiting showcases during the summer is a fine idea. The idea such showcases can eventually vanquish and replace the AAU circuit is an extremely shortsighted and naive notion.
• Punishing schools for players that leave early. One suggestion offered by the commission to limit players from leaving college after one year is to have those scholarships locked up for another year or two. I'm not sure how this would make a young man rethink his decision to leave. And I'm even less sure what purpose would be served by punishing programs for a player's personal choice.