NCAA panel report all show, no substance?

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked last fall to chair an NCAA-backed Commission on College Basketball. The supposedly independent panel released their 60-page report last month. “Our focus has been to strengthen the collegiate model,” Rice told ESPN.com.

Their key recommendations included eliminating the NBA’s one-and-done rule; bringing back freshman ineligibility; allowing players to return to college if they go undrafted; harsher punishment for rule breakers, including lifetime bans; and improving grassroots basketball.

After perusing the report, we found a glaring omission among Rice’s committee suggestions that NCAA President Mark Emmert says he wants implemented by October. Nothing was said about paying college players.

Two of our “kitchen cabinet experts,” Dr. Johari Shuck and Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, saw this as well and talked to us in separate phone interviews last week.

Shuck, who works with parents and youth on education issues in Chicago, said, “The climate of college basketball is changing, and a whole population of people don’t realize that it’s changing. People need to be talking about this. We are talking about mostly Black kids…”

Dr. Johari Shuck MSR file photo

“The Commission and the report sidestepped the issue of compensating athletes,” said Staurowsky, a Drexel University sport management professor and longtime advocate on player compensation. She said her students who also watched the April 25 nearly half-hour presentation, “picked up immediately on the whole ‘control the message.’ They thought it was a PR move and nothing more.”

Let’s briefly look at the report’s suggestions. First there’s the one-and-done rule that the NBA implemented in 2006:

Shuck: “That rule focuses on such a small part of the population. I really don’t know how much of an impact that will make [in] forcing kids who don’t want to go to college to go to college.”

Staurowsky: “The discussion on the one-and-done is a veiled…collusion relationship with the NBA, NCAA and NBAPA because there is an absence of any representation group on behalf of the [college] players to balance all of that out.”

Ellen Staurowsky (Photo courtesy of Drexel University)

Then there’s the recommendation that college players be able to return to school if they go undrafted and didn’t sign with an agent:

Shuck: “I think that’s critical, because doing that would put the college degree back as the central focus.”

There’s the elimination of freshman eligibility:

Shuck supports this only if it applies to all college players, not just men’s basketball: “I like the idea because it gives students a chance to get acclimated [to college].”

There’s the recommended harsher punishments for coaches who break the rules:

Shuck: “A lot of times these coaches have infractions and are able to move on with their lives and get new jobs. You have coaches that do shady things…and go to new schools.”

There’s the “grassroots basketball” recommendation, the NCAA working closer with USA Basketball, NBA and NBPA to start a new youth basketball program:

Shuck: “I hate that because it’s just giving the NCAA more control over the lives of these young people. Unless they are partnering with grassroots organizations that are really impacting kids from the inner-city, I don’t like [it].”

The commission report surmised that the NCAA has been used as a scapegoat for the problems in college basketball, and universities and individuals such as coaches should be held accountable for keeping the game clean.

“It sounds like the report was done for show rather than for substance,” Staurowsky said.