Last week, the Commission on College Basketball, led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, issued its recommendations on changes to be made to NCAA basketball. There are far smarter people, much closer to the college game than us, issuing commentary on these which can be found in full HERE.
But as company built around grassroots basketball – one who has spent every Spring & Summer the past seven years alongside the players, coaches and yes, the “agents and sponsors” who have allegedly created these problems on the AAU/Travel Basketball circuit, we do have a unique perspective…and maybe one that the Commission failed to consider with sufficient weight.
On the whole, we are encouraged that the long overdue process to “clean up” college basketball has begun and acknowledge that the Commission had a near impossible task in addressing all that’s messed up about college hoops. But with specific regard to its recommendations on grassroots basketball, a number of items remain either unclear or seemingly misguided.
Section 3 of the Commission’s Recommendations are summarized as “Mitigating Non-Scholastic Basketball’s Harmful Influence on College Basketball” (aka cleaning up the AAU scene) and highlight the following four core recommendations:
- Reform Non-Scholastic Basketball and Make its Finances Transparent
- Enlist Apparel Companies in Transparency and Accountability Efforts
- In Cooperation with Partners, Establish NCAA Youth Basketball Programs
- Enact Changes in Rules Governing Recruiting and Coaches’ Interaction with Recruits and Student-Athletes
While these recommendations make sense on the surface, they color all “Non-Scholastic Basketball” entities in the same negative light. Having partnered with dozens of AAU/Travel tournaments and event organizers – both ethical and otherwise, this is a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. The vast majority of those in the Non-Scholastic basketball scene are doing so for the right reasons – to help kids and promote a love of the game.
By way of example, our Showcase Series partners all have a history of running events with those aims in mind, even those that are focused on generating exposure for players amongst college coaches. Should the Commission significantly cut back on the number of non-scholastic basketball events in the market that coaches can attend, they risk doing a disservice to the youth player who may be looking for exposure to college coaches, albeit not at the top major D1 level.
But maybe more than anything else, the Commission’s Recommendations, and the Joint Statement in general is somewhat expectedly, soft on details. We hope in the coming months, the Commission, the NCAA and its partners will shed some additional light on the following major open items:
- Do these Recommendations apply only to top major programs or are they intended to be applicable to all NCAA member organizations?
- What type of “rigorous certification criteria” will be required to run non-scholastic basketball events that coaches are permitted to attend?
- Aside from the stated partners (NBA, NBPA, USA Basketball), does the NCAA expect to partner with any other entities (e.g. the “apparel companies” as noted in its report) on its new youth basketball programs?
It will be a long road to fix all that is broken about college basketball and this is a solid first step. We look forward to seeing where the NCAA takes it from here.