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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)


College basketball, which apparently is so corrupt and so filled with deception that "the very survival of the college game as we know it" is threatened, seems to be doing pretty well.

The NCAA tournament, despite some breathless reporting that the blue-blooded programs would be consumed by a tsunami of corruption, took place with few problems.

And the blue bloods took their usual places among the tournament's top seeds.

In September, college basketball looked pathetic. Some assistant coaches, a shoe company executive and several associates were among the 10 people arrested and charged with bribery and fraud by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Indictments soon followed.

NCAA president Mark Emmert reacted almost immediately, appointing a blue-ribbon commission to offer recommendations on how to sanitize the sport's ugly underbelly.

The committee offered that glum assessment on the game's survival.

To its credit, the commission has some good and workable ideas - allow players to have limited contact with agents, beginning in high school; permit players who declare for the NBA draft but are not selected to return to college; increase the penalties for teams and coaches, including a five-year ban on NCAA tournament participation and lifetime bans for coaches, for extreme violation of NCAA rules.

The last item seems a bit severe, though. The coaches usually slide while the players left behind suffer.

Some of the committee's ideas might come with the best intentions but are naive: minimize the influence of shoe companies in AAU basketball and, if necessary, remove them from involvement in summer showcase tournaments; eliminate the "one-and-done" rule.

Shoe companies pour millions of dollars into college athletic programs. If they are in danger of being eliminated from the fertile recruiting grounds of summer basketball - shoe companies need future stars to wear and promote their products - will they not subsequently threaten to pull their money from college programs? And if they do, where do you think the coaches, athletics directors and school presidents will come down on that issue?

No one wants the headache of filling a $10- or $15-million hole in an athletic department budget.

The "one-and-done" might seem a pox on college basketball, but fans don't appear all that upset by it when a couple of "one-and-dones" are helping their teams make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.

Besides, the NCAA has nothing to do with the rule. It's an NBA policy that a player must be a year removed from high school and 19 years old before being eligible to enter the league.

It's antithetical to American capitalism. But the NBA teams don't want to babysit recent high school graduates, NBA personnel men don't want to judge the ability and potential of teenagers, and the NBA players union wants to protect the jobs of its members from youngsters who just wrapped up their final exams in high school government classes.

The NBA gets players from around the world, has a developmental league and doesn't have to depend on colleges as much as the NFL does.

If the NBA doesn't want to change the rule, the rule isn't going to be changed.

What looked dire and disastrous in September doesn't look quite as bad now. Without researching it, who even remembers what all the brouhaha was about?

In the best of situations, the wheels of justice grind slowly. It probably will be a while before all these college basketball charges are adjudicated. And what a person originally is charged with is not always what he's convicted of, if he's found guilty at all and if the charges even go forward.

This could be much ado about, well, not about nothing, because college basketball has more than a few problems. But unless someone is shaving points, federal prosecutors don't need to be involved.

Money changes hands in college basketball. It shouldn't have taken bribery and fraud indictments to move the NCAA to clean up its act.

Emmert thinks the committee's recommendations could be included in the NCAA's legislative code by the start of the 2018-19 season. He could be right, but what he sees from the committee is not likely to be what he gets in the NCAA code.

Contact with agents without drawing NCAA rebukes? Yeah, probably. Permitting players to test the draft and return to school if they don't like the results? Sure. That's reasonable.

But anything to do with shoe companies and the money they "contribute" to college basketball and AAU programs isn't going to change.

Renamed and reconfigured? Maybe. But stopped? That Pandora's box has opened, and it's never going to close.

(804) 649-6444 @World_of_Woody

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May 2, 2018


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