Commission on College Basketball failed to address root cause of problems: Amateurism

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There is one, simple reason why The Commission on College Basketball came into existence: The FBI stumbled onto an ex-runner for an ex-NBA agent who had just enough connections into the college basketball recruiting world that he shined a light on a corner of basketball’s black market.

The shadow that cast over the sport for the last seven months was something the NCAA needed to address, so they brought in some big names to try and affect big change in the game.

That didn’t happen, because The Commission opted to focus on the symptoms, not the disease that is rotting away at the core of college basketball: Amateurism.

“If NCAA rules do not allow them to receive that advice openly,” Condoleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State that led The Commission on College Basketball, “they will often seek it illicitly.”

She said this in regards to the access that these players have to agent representation, but if you simply replace the word “advice” with “money”, it works just the same.


For all that the NCAA said and did on Wednesday morning, for all the statements that were read and released, no one mentioned a word about how the only reason that The Commission exists in the first place is that the FBI had to do the NCAA’s investigating for them by finding a way to somehow turn their amateurism rules into a federal crime.

And in the end, that is what this was supposed to be all about.

The FBI found themselves a financial advisor named Marty Blazer that was doing some illegal things. That financial advisor flipped and led them to Christian Dawkins, a runner for disgraced ex-NBA agent Andy Miller. Dawkins knew enough people and had a big enough mouth that he was able to lead the FBI to four assistant coaches that the government says were taking bribes and a couple of Adidas executives that were allegedly paying players to attend schools that their company sponsored.

I’ve written about the absurdity of this too many times, from the FBI’s involvement proving that these players have significant monetary value to the fact that the NCAA themselves created the rules that has allowed this black market to thrive, but that’s the truth.

This commission exists because the FBI, with their wiretaps and subpoenas and undercover agents, discovered that people that profit off of athletes for a living paid money to other people to ensure that they would be able to profit off of specific athletes when those athletes become professionals.

Shocking, I know.

This is a world where shoe companies are signing deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars with colleges; a world where cable companies are spending more than a billion dollars annually to broadcasts games; a world where the best of the best in the NBA are getting nine figure contracts from their teams and make eight figures annually in endorsement money; a world where agents and financial advisors can get significant cuts of that contract; a world where it is relatively easy to identify who is going to make $100 million in their basketball career.

This much is undeniable: Elite basketball prospects, regardless of their age, have significant and tangible value to so many people, from the coaches that get raises and extensions when those players help them win to the agents that are looking to get their 4% cut of whatever contract they can negotiate.

These players are worth something.

So they are going to get paid, whether it is above board or under the table, because people like money and that is how economic markets work.

That’s been happening since the days of Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas. There are some that will tell you John Wooden’s legacy as a head coach is a direct result of Sam Gilbert’s deep pockets. If it happened then, when there weren’t a dozen NBA players worth the GDP of a handful of Polynesian Islands, pretending it’s not happening now is foolish.

The simple truth is this: the agents paying bribes, the shoe companies funneling money to players, the coaches and administrators that are burying their heads in the sand, everything that the FBI dug up during their investigation is simply a symptom of the disease that is plaguing college basketball: Amateurism.

And, frankly, The Commission punted on this subject.

“We respected the fact that the legal ramifications of NCAA action on name, image, and likeness are currently before the courts,” Rice said. “We don’t believe that the NCAA can legislate in this area until the legal parameters become clearer.”

That said, there is room for hope.

“It is hard for the public, and frankly for me, to understand what can be allowed within the college model … and what can’t be allowed without opening the door to professionalizing college basketball,” Rice said. “Personally, I hope that there will be more room in the college model today for this kind of benefit to students without endangering the college model itself.”

That money isn’t going away.

You can’t put Pandora back in her box.

So barring a change to what we think of as “the college model”, none of the recommendations that The Commission set forth will do much of anything to affect change.


“The crisis in college basketball is first and foremost a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility.”

This is how, on Wednesday morning, Rice opened her statement announcing The Commission’s findings and recommendations for ways that the NCAA can cure what ails it.

She said that talking to the people involved in the NCAA was “like watching a circular firing squad,” as people pointed fingers and spread blame on everyone except themselves.

“Ultimately the fault was always that of someone else,” she said. “It is time for coaches, athletic directors, University Presidents, Boards of Trustees, the NCAA leadership and staff, apparel companies, agents, pre-collegiate coaches – and yes -– parents and athletes — to accept their culpability in getting us to where we are today.”

She then proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes and 3,342 words explaining how the burden to solve the problems the NCAA is dealing with falls on everyone from the NBA and the NBPA eliminating the one-and-done rule to the shoe companies that must provide financial transparency to the NCAA to the independent investigators that the association is going to have to hire because they have proven, over and over again, to be utterly incapable of policing themselves.

Oh, the irony.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.