NCAA Dribbles the Idea of Fundamental Internal Change

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NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics on October 30, 2017 and asserted that major changes are needed in college basketball to demonstrate to the public that the NCAA can properly run the sport. “We cannot go to the next basketball season without seeing fundamental change in the way college basketball is operated,” Emmert said. “The public doesn’t have sufficient confidence in any of us in terms of our ability to resolve these issues.” Emmert cited to a recent NCAA-commissioned poll, which found widespread distrust in both the NCAA and its schools, with 79 percent of Americans agreeing with the statement that major colleges put money ahead of the interests of their athletes.

His comments come in the wake of a bribery scandal that ensnared coaches, financial managers, and an Adidas executive. Prosecutors alleged that coaches solicited bribes in exchange for their help in steering top basketball recruits towards preferred financial advisors and managers, and that the Adidas executive conspired to funnel payments to the families of top recruits to push players to sign with Adidas-sponsored schools. Emmert expressed concern about the prospect of more charges in the investigation, and said “[w]hether it’s the tip of the iceberg or whether it’s the whole iceberg doesn’t really matter. It’s disgusting as it is, and we’ve got to recognize that we own that.”

A new commission, created by the NCAA this month and chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will study college basketball and recommend reform by April. Reforms could include: regulations for nonscholastic youth basketball; greater enforcement powers for the NCAA, including possible subpoena powers; a limited antitrust exemption that would give the NCAA protection from lawsuits in exchange for some federal control; and allowing athletes to benefit from the use of their names, images and likenesses. Emmert was supportive of ending the practice of players leaving after their freshman year to play in the NBA, as those players are more likely to find their services at the center of “backroom deals.” However, allowing players to earn money through endorsements and sponsorship deals, an idea supported by Hall of Fame NBA player David Robinson who is now on Rice’s Commission, would be highly controversial at some schools.

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