After roughly five months of discussion and research, the Pac-12 task force created in response to the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball has finalized several recommendations for change and submitted them to the NCAA Commission on College Basketball.
The most notable proposal included in the 50-page report is to end the so-called “one-and-done” age-limit rule that states a player must be 19 years old or one year removed from his high school class graduation to be drafted in the NBA, and institute a model that more closely resembles what is used in baseball. In the Pac-12’s proposal, prospects who are would retain the option to head to college, but should they choose the college route would not be eligible to be drafted again until after their third season on campus — like baseball and football.
“We are certainly advocating for elite prospects to have a choice to go to the NBA or an enhanced G League out of college,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “So they are not forced, as they are now, by the NBA’s rules to have to come to college and play in a collegiate system for a year.”
The problem for the NCAA, however, is its lack of leverage for this rule change to happen. It has to come from the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, which have been reluctant — until recently — to consider changing the rule, which was implemented in 2005.
“If the NBA isn’t willing to make changes like this to the eligibly rules, I think college will have to re-evaluate some other things,” Scott said. “We’re very much approaching it from the perspective of we think there’s a lot of focus on this right now, cries for action.”
Scott said he has been encouraged by comments on the topic from influential figures like Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and NBA commissioner Adam Silver that have indicated a willingness on the NBA’s part to become more involved with the issues that face lower-level basketball.
Last week, Kerr, who played at Arizona and has also served as an NBA general manager, offered a similar concept relating to players retaining their eligibility despite going through the draft process.
“One of the things the NCAA needs to look at is, if a kid signs with an agent and he doesn’t get drafted, welcome him back,” Kerr said. “Why not? What’s the harm? We talk about amateurism and all this stuff, but if you’re truly trying to do what’s right for the kid, and the kid declares for the draft and doesn’t get drafted, you know what? Welcome him back. Do something good for the kids.”
In order to help top prospects navigate their potential options — whether it’s the NBA, college, etc. — the Pac-12 recommended that beginning in their sophomore years of high school, these elite players should have access to professional guidance from agents. There are similar rules already in place in both baseball and hockey.
“It is clear that families are often bewildered by the choices they are asked to make regarding their children’s athletic, educational, and financial options, and are vulnerable to potentially unscrupulous intermediaries,” the report states.
The complete report and recommendations were presented to Pac-12 university presidents in Las Vegas on Saturday and received unanimous approval to send on to the NCAA.
“Now is the time to step up and make changes to both restore trust in our game and protect the best interest of our student-athletes,” UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, a member of the task force, said in a statement. “We need to reform our rules, strengthen their enforcement, and rebuild confidence both in the integrity of our sport and of the educational mission of our universities.”
The task force was announced in October, two weeks after FBI indictments rocked the college basketball world and included arrests of two Pac-12 assistant coaches, Arizona’s Book Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland. It included 12 members, in addition to Scott, with wide-ranging experience in college athletics and basketball, specifically. Golden State general manager Bob Myers and former executive vice president/head of basketball for the NCAA Tom Jernstedt were among the members, as was former college and NBA coach Mike Montgomery, who is also on the NCAA Commission.
Recommendations also include modifications to the recruiting calendar, which, among other things, would allow players to visit campuses earlier in their high school careers and the creation of a new enforcement unit independent of the NCAA. The report notes the existing enforcement structure “fails to separate the investigative, prosecutorial, adjudicative and penalty functions,” which has eroded the presumption of innocence and given too much attention to trivial infractions.
Scott said the recommendations are designed to be taken comprehensively and is hopeful everything will be adopted.
The NCAA Commission will deliver its recommendations in April.