Sports Journalism Blog

By Jon Sauber | @JonSauber

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — The independent Commission on College Basketball recommended that the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association abolish the “one-and-done” rule in a 60-page report designed to preserve the traditional amateur status of athletes while addressing the factors that have led to highly-publicized scandals.

The commission, created last October after the arrest of 10 individuals in an ongoing investigation of corruption in the college basketball industry, released its recommendations on how to fix college basketball that included allowing players to have access to agents, allowing undrafted players to return to school, levying harsher penalties for rules violations and outsourcing some enforcement cases.

The commission began its statement by addressing the one-and-done rule.

“First, we must separate the collegiate track from the professional track by ending one-and-done,” commission chairman Condoleezza Rice said in a prepared statement. “We call on the NBA and the NBPA, who exclusively have the power here, to once again make 18-year-olds eligible for the NBA draft so that high school players who are drafted may proceed directly to the NBA.”

This recommendation from the commission came with a stipulation, however, that it will make an alternate recommendation if the NBA and NBPA do not enact such a change. The alternate recommendations include making freshman ineligible once again or “locking up” scholarships for a specific period of time.

Although commission members discussed the possibility of a minimum number of years before basketball players could leave for a professional career, similar to the existing model in baseball, they did not make that recommendation.

The NBA and NBPA responded with a joint statement that read, in part, “Regarding the NBA’s draft eligibility rules, the NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game.”

That wasn’t the only rule change recommendation regarding the NBA draft, as the commission recommended a change in the eligibility of undrafted athletes.

“We believe high school and college players who declare for the draft and are not drafted should remain eligible for college basketball unless and until they sign a professional contract,” Rice said “Erroneously entering the NBA draft is not the kind of misjudgment that should deprive student-athletes of the valuable opportunity to enter college or to continue in college while playing basketball.”

That recommendation came with a stipulation as well, as the commission wants the NBA to change one of its rules to facilitate the change. As the NBA rules currently dictate, if a player goes undrafted and returns to school, he becomes a free agent. The commission would like this to change, making the player re-enter the draft if they return after being undrafted.

The commission made recommendations beyond player eligibility, with the hopes of making it less likely that players receive improper benefits. With regards to contact with agents, a subject under heavy scrutiny with the federal investigation, the commission is recommending allowing more liberal contact between players and agents.

That contact would be subject to a condition. The agents would be certified by the NCAA with “strict standards” and only those who are certified would be allowed to engage with student-athletes at a time in their high school career that is deemed appropriate by the NCAA. Those standards would be set and overseen by a Vice President-level executive that would be appointed by the NCAA, according to the recommendations.

The commission would also like to regulate the youth basketball circuits and AAU-style tournaments that dominate the high school basketball landscape. The changes would overhaul a system that is at the heart of the FBI investigation. The commission recommends that, with a goal of 2019, the NCAA work with USA Basketball, the NBA, the NBPA and others to establish and administer new youth basketball programs.

According to the recommendations, the goal would be to establish three levels of youth development. The levels are: National Team Potential, Highest Collegiate Potential and Collegiate Potential. The report also states that the national team level would identify, evaluate and develop 80-100 players, the highest collegiate level would have 400-500 players, and the collegiate level would have 2,000-2,500 players.

NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon, after the commission released its report and said he supported its recommendations.

Alongside Emmert was G.P. “Bud” Peterson, Georgia Tech President and the chair of the NCAA’s Board of Governors, and Eric Kaler, University of Minnesota President and chair of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

When asked about the role apparel companies had in the commission’s report, Peterson maintained that there is not an issue with the entire industry.

“I don’t believe that the apparel companies have worked as a whole to undermine what the NCAA is doing,” Peterson said. The commission merely asked these apparel companies to be more transparent with their finances, and made no recommendation to alter their role in the grand scheme of college basketball or youth basketball.

The commission also recommended the creation of an independent investigative process and harsher penalties for violators of NCAA rules, including a five-year postseason ban for Level I violations.

The commission addressed the issue of student-athletes making money on their name, image and likeness, but delayed a specific recommendation because of current litigation.

“We respected the fact that the legal ramifications of NCAA action on name, image, and likeness are currently before the courts,” Rice said. “We don’t believe that the NCAA can legislate in this area until the legal parameters become clearer. That said, most Commissioners believe that the rules on name, image and likeness should be taken up as soon as the legal framework is established.”

Peterson said that the recommendations have already begun to move through the NCAA legislative process, thanks to a unanimous endorsement. “The Board of Governors unanimously endorsed the recommendations and put the process in place to put those in place this coming August,” Peterson said.

Kaler then said that the Division I Board of Directors called upon the Division I Council to begin to rewrite NCAA rules and policy to implement the newest recommendations.

Peterson added that the NCAA’s recommendation of expanding the Board of Governors likely won’t be completed by August, but the goal is to have all of the other recommendations that they control to be in place by August.