The independent Commission on College Basketball today released a 60-page report with recommendations for improving the sport rocked by scandal last year.
Chaired by former secretary of state Condelezza Rice, the commission was formed seven months ago after allegations that several college assistant coaches had accepted bribes and kickbacks for certain recruiting practices, leading to a federal corruption investigation. The much-anticipated recommendations pull few punches, including lifetime bans for coaches who cheat.
"The members of this commission come from a wide variety of backgrounds but the one thing that they share in common is that they believe the college basketball enterprise is worth saving," Rice told the AP, as reported by ESPN.com. "We believe there's a lot of work to do in that regard. That the state of the game is not very strong.
"We had to be bold in our recommendations."
The commission addressed the one-and-done rule, recommending that elite players be given more options when choosing their competitive career tracks, and that the NBA and NCAA tracks should be clearly separate. It recommended that the NBA and its players association discontinue the rule that players must be at least 19 years old and a year removed from high school to be eligible for the league draft. Without changes to that rule, in place since 2006, the commission said it could reconvene to recommend that the NCAA make freshmen ineligible or to lock scholarships for three or four years should a player leave college after one year. It also recommended that basketball players be allowed to test the professional market in high school or after any college season, while still maintaining college eligibility.
NCAA enforcement was another target of the commission, which recommended that allegations of the most serious violations be investigated and adjudicated by a third party, with penalties upped from one-year post-season bans to five-year bans, during which the school would be forbidden from sharing in any post-season revenue — potentially costing guilty institutions in major conferences tens of millions of dollars. Coaches who run afoul of NCAA rules should be banned from college basketball for life, the commission concluded.
Other recommendations included more transparency among shoe and apparel providers such as Adidas, whose under-the-table cash incentives to coaches were central to the federal corruption case, and more due diligence among university presidents, who should be required to "certify annually that they have conducted due diligence and that their athletic programs comply with NCAA rules."
NCAA president Mark Emmert was part of the commission, but not allowed to participate in executive sessions, during which recommendations were formed. Rice estimates the commission spent 70 percent of its time in executive session.
The commission warned against scapegoating the NCAA.
"When those institutions and those responsible for leading them short-circuit rules, ethics and norms in order to achieve on-court success, they alone are responsible," the commission wrote. "Too often, these individuals hide behind the NCAA when they are the ones most responsible for the degraded state of intercollegiate athletics, in general, and college basketball in particular."