After five months of meetings, research, interviews and more, the Pac-12 Conference task force has finally unveiled the ideas it hopes will help cleanse the embattled world of college basketball.
Exactly how the ideas formed by the 12-person task force evolve into tangible change remains to be seen.
On Tuesday morning the league released the findings put together by the task force, which includes University of Colorado senior associate athletic director Ceal Barry. The report will be forwarded to the NCAA commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a group that, like the Pac-12 task force, was formed in the wake of four Division I assistant coaches getting arrested in the opening salvo of the still-unfolding FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting issues.
Two of those now-former assistant coaches worked in the Pac-12 — USC’s Tony Bland and Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson.
Among the more prominent suggestions complied by the Pac-12 task force is the challenge to end the NBA’s one-and-done rule, which would allow elite high school prospects like Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton (who is alleged to have been on the receiving end of a $100,000 payment from Wildcats coach Sean Miller, per an ESPN report almost three weeks ago) to jump immediately into their professional careers after high school.
The past two No. 1 overall picks in the NBA draft — former LSU star Ben Simmons and former Washington guard Markelle Fultz — had abbreviated college careers that, in retrospect, did little to elevate the profile of either their team or the collegiate game. Changing this NBA rule is one topic Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott spoke passionately about during his press conference at the league tournament last week in Las Vegas.
“We are certainly advocating for elite prospects to have a choice to go to the NBA or an enhance G-League out of (high school) so they are not forced by the NBA’s rules to have to come to college and play in a collegiate system for a year,” Scott said. “It’s our sense that would be an important step in terms of having more clarity of purpose and mission so that those young men who really are solely focused on being paid to play basketball, they can go do that.
“It’s been encouraging to see leaders in the game like LeBron James and Steve Kerr commenting recently about that. I’m encouraged because I think leading voices in the NBA are going to have to be part of helping come up with that solution and driving change in the NBA’s eligibility rules.”
While pressuring the NBA to end its one-and-done directive is one rule change that is gaining momentum, other areas of potential change outlined by the Pac-12 task force appear, at first glance, more difficult to implement.
For instance, the Pac-12 task force calls for the NCAA to organize its own regional showcases for high school athletes in July, which would include invitations to particular individuals instead of travel teams. While the idea certainly has merit, and would create the potential for prospects to get third and even fourth opinions from experts outside their travel teams, the NCAA seemingly would have little sway in trying to eliminate AAU-type showcases altogether.
Among some of the other highlights of the Pac-12 task force’s recommendations:
• Allowing official visits to begin the fall of a high school player’s junior year, instead of after Jan. 1.
• Freeing up resources from the Student Assistance Fund to allow greater financial help for players’ families to travel to games, thereby curbing a need for those families to secure funds to watch their children play. Currently families only get such assistance for special occasions, like for a program’s Senior Day festivities.
• A general loosening of rules regarding contact with agents in order for families to more easily receive professional advice, a model that generally has worked well for players and programs alike in NCAA hockey and baseball.
•Advocating for the formation of an independent entity to enforce NCAA regulations, using the relationship between the World Anti-Doping and the Olympics as an example.