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How will the Fair Pay To Play act change things in college basketball?

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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 206, the Fair Pay To Play act, into law earlier this week, and the result has been a tidal wave of political action, as legislators from around the country have made the move to try and curry favor with their base by taking similar steps.

Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington have had lawmakers take steps towards introducing similar bills. At the federal level, congressmen from Connecticut, North Carolina and Ohio have been working towards finding a way to overthrow the NCAA’s amateurism model, while presidential candidate Andrew Yang has used this as part of his campaign.

And it makes sense.

According to a poll conducted by Seton Hall, more than 60% of Americans support players being allowed access to their name, image and likeness rights while 80% of Americans under the age of 30 support it.

At this point, the question seems to be when, not if, the concept of amateurism in college athletics will be erased from our lives forever.

The question that I’ve gotten more than any other this week is what the real impact is going to be.

Dan Wetzel over at Yahoo Sports put together a list of nine things that are going to change, but that list is more big picture and focuses on the football side of things. There are three points that he does make – which we have discussed in this space before – that will have real and significant impact on college basketball.

1. IT WILL HELP KEEP PLAYERS IN SCHOOL

I’ve made this point over and over again in recent years. I wrote an entire column on it after the early entry deadline past on May 30th. There is a very real talent drain in college basketball. There were 87 players with eligibility remaining that left school to turn pro.

87!

This is the truth: If you are a player that is projected as a top 100 prospect in the sport, someone that is going to have some kind of significant professional basketball career, it makes financial sense for you to leave school as early as possible. First round picks get guaranteed contracts. According to a study I did last summer, if you are a player that is picked in the first 20 picks of the second round, odds are very, very good that you are going to get yourself a guaranteed deal with an NBA team. Players that are drafted at the end of the second round often end up on two-way deals or on G League rosters, where the salaries that NBA organizations can offer have been boosted. That doesn’t include the players that have their agents tell NBA teams they do not want to be drafted in the second round and would rather enter the professional realm as a free agent; that happens more than you think. Then there are the guys that opt to play overseas, where the top leagues can prove to be quite profitable, especially for players that are able to obtain citizenship in other countries.

That’s before we factor in the kids that never actually make it to college. Every year, we see more and more players opt to take a different path to the NBA, whether it is sitting out and training, going to Australia for a year or taking an extra season in prep school so they can head straight to the draft.

Let’s say the average professional basketball player keeps getting contracts until they are 30 years old – and that might be generous. If you are a 20 year old sophomore that is good enough to play professionally, than returning to school would mean that you are missing out on 10 percent of your earning potential by returning to school. Throw in the fact that most schools will guarantee the scholarships for these athletes if they turn pro and then come back in a decade, and you don’t have to be an Investment Banker to figure out what makes the most sense financially.

Opening up name, image and likeness rights is going to make a very, very small percentage of college basketball players rich.

But what it will do is convince some players to come back to school. Maybe Creighton’s Martin Krampelj comes back for his final season if he can make $30,000 in endorsements. Maybe Syracuse guard Tyus Battle plays his final season in Orange if Dinosaur BBQ can pay him to be the face of their line of dry rubs. Maybe Oregon doesn’t lose Kenny Wooten. Maybe West Virginia returns Sagaba Konate. LSU’s Tremont Waters. UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins. Iowa’s Tyler Cook. Minnesota’s Amir Coffey.

The list goes on and on.

2. THIS REALLY WILL HELP THE BEST MID-MAJORS

The best schools are still going to get the best players when these rules change.

Duke and Kentucky are going to continue to rake whichever elite players they target. Kansas will no longer be “a victim” of the help provided by Adidas. Nike is going to make sure that Oregon and North Carolina have rosters that keep them competitive.

Point being, the big dogs are still going to eat.

But in college basketball, where things can really be impacted will at the programs where basketball ranks first, second and third, and where there is big money to be spent. I think this will be really good for programs in the Big East. Wetzel, in his column, mentions Villanova and Georgetown, and that makes sense. There are a lot of alums with a lot of money that care about their basketball teams. I think it also helps programs like UConn, Marquette and, particularly, Creighton. The Bluejays sell out an NBA-sized arena in a town that doesn’t really have all that much else to do.

Wichita State would be another example. I can’t imagine what Memphis will be like if FedEx is allowed to officially team up with Penny and Mike Miller on the recruiting trail. VCU has a huge and passionate fan base. So does Dayton. St. Bonaventure’s fans are as crazy as anyone. Nevada. BYU. UNLV.

It works at a smaller level as well. Murray State, for example, plays in a league that’s off the map but has a big enough fan base to be able to entice some bigger recruits to town if the price is right. Vermont already recruits above their level. Hell, this would probably be really good for places in the Ivy League – Harvard, Yale, Penn, Princeton.

They’re not going to start getting every player, but it could be what allows them in the door with a player at a level above what they’re recruiting now.

3. TRANSFERS WILL GET REALLY MESSY

Losing their best players to bigger schools is already a major problem for mid-major programs, and that’s before it’s legal to get paid. If you’re a power conference school and you lose your starting backcourt to the NBA draft a year earlier than expected, why wouldn’t you go out and offer too much of your boosters’ money to the kid at UNC Asheville that averaged 16 and six assists as a junior?

Every professional sport on the planet sees teams waste money when signing players in a panic. College sports would be no different.

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

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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

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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.