NCAA Announces A Sweeping Overhaul Of College Basketball
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The organization that oversees college sports in the U.S., the NCAA, is making changes it hopes will stem the tide of men's basketball scandals, including one that sparked an FBI investigation into college recruiting fraud. Let's talk about this with NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: So it really does seem like the NCAA is always fending off these scandals, especially in men's basketball. And it...
GREENE: ...Sounds like these reforms came about, I mean, faster than anyone expected.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, warp speed by NCAA standards. These reforms were hammered out since late April. One official said yesterday, it normally would have taken two years with all the layers of governance and the committee. What prompted this? - it's fair to say, a sense of urgency brought on by that FBI investigation you mentioned. It led to a commission on college basketball, chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which concluded the levels of corruption and deception are threatening the survival of the college game as we know it.
GOLDMAN: The commission issued a bunch of recommendations in late April, as I mentioned - said it wanted the NCAA to implement them by early August. And here we are.
GREENE: OK. Here we are. But what is actually happening? What do these reforms actually do?
GOLDMAN: You know, I should say first, some of these reforms aren't going to be enacted immediately and are contingent on other rules being changed, like the NBA lowering its age requirement for players entering the league from 19 years old to 18. But some of the more prominent reforms are intended to give college basketball players more freedom in pursuing a pro career, such as, they'll be able to sign with an NCAA-certified agent who will be allowed to pay some of the players' minor expenses; some players who declare for the NBA draft and go undrafted will be able to return to school. The NCAA also wants to minimize what it calls harmful outside influences on basketball players - one of the reforms there, demanding more accountability by apparel companies like Nike, Under Armour and Adidas and their involvement in youth basketball.
GREENE: Well, wasn't one of the big questions that keeps coming up in this larger conversation is the one about whether players should be paid? I mean, a lot of people say it's just long overdue considering how much money these players generate.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. That's not one of the reforms, David. The NCAA appears to be following the lead of the Rice commission, which did not recommend it. The commission did say many Division I athletes are compensated through scholarships, meals, travel, career advice. But NCAA officialdom is standing firm, at least for now, against paying players directly.
GREENE: OK. Has there been reaction yet to what the NCAA is proposing?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, there has been. You're hearing a lot of basically positive comments, even from traditional critics. I spoke with Ramogi Huma. He's the executive director of the National College Players Association. He was involved in that effort to designate Northwestern University football players employees of that school, if you remember.
GREENE: Oh, right. Yeah.
GOLDMAN: Huma told me the reform allowing college players to sign with agents is an important precedent. And here he is.
RAMOGI HUMA: For the longest we've heard, players cannot sign with agents. It makes them professional. The sky would fall. It would ruin the sport. So it's a step in the right direction.
GOLDMAN: But David, you're also hearing concerns about how some of the important reform details are going to be worked out. According to ESPN, the NBA felt, quote, "blindsided" by the presumption that it will make necessary rules changes. Now, in a statement, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford said about the reforms, it's important to be mindful that we won't reach perfection. However, we can't let that stand in the way of significant progress.
GREENE: All right. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman talking to us about some of the reforms that the NCAA is proposing. And we'll be following that as they come into practice potentially. Tom, thanks.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOGUAI AND RAUMAKUSTIK'S "SOMETIMES")
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