With change, particularly sweeping change, often comes unintended consequences. Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle already can see one looming on the horizon.
Nearly 11 months ago, when the college basketball world was rocked by the opening arrests from the FBI's recruiting corruption probe, NCAA president Mark Emmert promised swift and thorough reform to the sport not long after four assistant coaches — including coaches from Boyle's Pac-12 rivals at Arizona and USC — were escorted away in handcuffs.
This past week, basketball fans finally received a template for what some of those changes will look like.
The NCAA Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors approved a number of alterations to college basketball's business model, the most significant of which will affect how coaches like Boyle seek out fresh talent on the recruiting trail. As usual with such a glut of reformative measures, it was a mixed bag of good ideas, unnecessary alterations, and a few head-scratchers.
One of those head-scratchers was to raise the number of official visits a prospect can take, beginning Aug. 1 prior to his junior year of high school, from five to 15. It's debatable whether a player needs five official visits to decide where he wants to play basketball. Fifteen is downright glutinous and needlessly excessive, and ultimately universities will be forced to foot the bill while wining and dining players who, in reality, have no intention of extending that particular campus experience beyond a free weekend trip.
"If I'm an athletic director, or I'm running a business office, I don't like that rule," Boyle said. "If you're using all your visits, you're going to be spending a heck of a lot more money, and you're going to be wasting a lot more money. You've got to be very cautious and prudent when you decide to offer an official visit. It's going to be interesting to see.
"Theoretically, let's say we're going to bring a junior in high school to campus this on an official visit this fall. That's the class of 2020, and right now on paper we have three scholarships for 2020. If we bring a kid on campus in the fall of 2018, and they can't sign until the following November, are you going to get a commitment from that kid? Is that commitment going to stick? You've got to feel confident that kid is seriously considering you."
To be clear, Boyle was speaking about that one particular aspect of the new NCAA regulations. For the other new rules with the biggest potential ramifications, from changes in the recruiting calendar to allowing elite prospects to retain agents to allowing undrafted underclassmen to return to school, Boyle is preferring to take a sort of wait-and-see outlook to how the new regulations will impact the sport. That's prudent. Hot takes make great headlines and drive clicks, yet it remains to be seen what sort of shape many of the newly announced reforms will take and how they will be enacted.
Still, a few good ideas were sprinkled among the changes. NCAA's newfound decision to use outside investigative information to police and punish its member institutions should make all the programs touched by the years-long FBI investigation more than a little nervous. Same with the vow to strengthen the penalties for recruiting transgressions, as the lure of how a lone Final Four run can alter the career path of a coach typically has far outweighed the potential consequences if it eventually is revealed that coach skirted a few rules along the way. Far too often coaches in those positions leave the mess behind for someone else to clean up while they move on to the next big contract.
Among the head-scratchers is the NCAA's continued insistence that apparel-company showcases, the tent pole of the summer recruiting landscape for several generations, are the root source of the corruption that spurred the FBI investigation in the first place. Wanting to regenerate the scholastic atmosphere surrounding basketball is admirable. (The new recruiting landscape is to include June showcases hosted by high school associations, with fewer opportunities in July to witness AAU events). But this thinking assumes sparsely-paid high school coaches/teachers are less susceptible to bribes or taking shortcuts simply because they work at a school. It also overlooks the wonderful, often life-changing opportunities clubs provide young men who are looking for a way out of challenging inner-city neighborhoods.
Regardless, change has arrived, and for better or worse college coaching staffs will have to adjust. That process begins this week for Boyle and his staff, who will be hunkering down in their annual coaching retreat.
"The game has changed, so you have to adjust your strategy as you move forward," Boyle said. "That's something we'll have a lot of discussions about."