In the wake of an FBI investigation and arrests, changes to college basketball are inevitable.
Last week, ESPN’s resident college basketball expert Jay Bilas released his “Opus.” You can read it here: The Bilas Opus: Here to rescue NCAA basketball
As he describes, his opus is “the most comprehensive view of the wide landscape of college basketball. The Opus is not a preview; it’s an awakening — not to what could happen in the game, but what will happen. The Opus removes all mystery and intrigue. The accuracy of The Opus is beyond Pinpoint. The Opus is not a roadmap to be unfolded at a gas station by the side of the road. The Opus is more accurate than GPS and is both celestial and terrestrial.”
In short, it is Jay Bilas’ “State of the Game”- where the game is at, where it is headed, and what we can do to improve it.
Additionally, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote an article sharing his views on college basketball and what he would do to improve it: A coach’s view of the complicated NCAA Division 1 basketball landscape
Both Jay and Fran have been, in one capacity or another, a part of college basketball for a long time. They come with these ideas from various views: one a long-time coach turned analyst, and a former player who had a brief stint as a coach and now an analyst with a law degree. Both guys have lots to say about the game the love…and some pretty good ideas on how to change it for the better.
After reading both of these articles, I got to thinking…what would I change to improve college basketball? As someone who spent 13 years working for college basketball programs, I have a first-hand knowledge of how college basketball operates, and have quite a few ideas for how we can do better (some of these ideas are ones shared by Jay and Fran in their articles)…
College basketball needs new leadership.
We need new leadership at the NCAA that is specifically tasked with running college basketball. I think ideally, the power structure would make up for people with direct basketball experience (former coaches, former players, former athletic directors that oversaw the basketball teams, etc.). Along with the committee, there would be a new “commissioner” of college basketball. The committee would select the commissioner. The commissioner would serve a limited term. The commissioner and board members would be separate entities. No longer would current AD’s or school presidents be the ones making decisions that are in their own best interest. Instead, we would have a group of people who have been in the trenches making decisions that are best for the game.
A New Rule Book
The NCAA rules manual is a monster. Rules on top of rules on top of rules. There is no way we can expect coaches (and even compliance officers) to understand all the rules of the manual. Many rules are ambiguous and poorly worded, leaving coaches confused. Many times I attempted to look up rules myself but did not understand the answers I found. I would then take it our compliance officer, who didn’t fully understand the rule. So then they had to contact the conference office for clarification. They didn’t know, so then they would pass it on to the NCAA. By the time I got an answerback, sometimes weeks had gone by. Should it be this hard? No. We need to shred the current manual. We need to delete it from our hard drives. We need to rid it of our minds. Once we have done that, formulate a new rulebook that is much more streamlined. Only include rules that are important to the well-being of college basketball. This would be the first task of the new power structure.
Division I is way too big.
351 teams in Division I basketball is too many. This number needs to be reduced. I am not sure to how many schools. Bilas thinks it should be greatly reduced, “Division I should be reduced to approximately 120 teams. With a smaller number of Division I teams, there will be more quality players spread out over fewer units. Teams will have greater depth, talent and roster and lineup flexibility. With more talent spread out over fewer units, there will be more money spread out over fewer units, too. It is a no-brainer. Those not cutting may certainly play in their division and govern it the way they want. Division I can still invite lower-division teams to participate in its postseason tournament, but they would not play during the regular season.” Jay doesn’t explain his thoughts any further. Would the schools that aren’t part of the new Division 1 go down to Division 2? Would he have a two-tiered Division 1? How would this impact other areas like scheduling, post-season tournaments, scholarship rules, etc.?
An idea I have always been intrigued by is the idea of promotion/relegation in college basketball (similar to European soccer). So perhaps we use a two-tiered Division 1 system, where “upper division” teams are relegated based on poor performance, and “lower level teams” are promoted based on their success.
There would be lots of questions to be answered with contraction. This would be task #2 of the new basketball commission.
Reformed Decision System
This is beyond my understanding. I just agree with Bilas’ idea that we need a change in how cases are decided: “The NCAA can and should have an enforcement arm, but that arm should investigate and bring cases, not decide cases. Both the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) have their disputes resolved before the American Arbitration Association. If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for the NCAA. That way, schools, coaches, and administrators can defend themselves against charges brought, and all cases can be adjudicated by a panel of independent arbitrators agreed upon by the parties. It would be simple, fast, consistent, authoritative and trustworthy. Right now, it is none of those things.”
It just seems that ruling made by the NCAA is inconsistent, unfair, puzzling, and often take way too long to make. I believe that too much time is spent punishing small, inconsequential things when time could be spent trying to fix REAL problems.
This is a very polarizing topic in college athletics. I have long wrestled with my thoughts about the issue. I’ve looked at it from a coach’s point of view. I’ve tried imagining myself as a college athlete. I’ve tried imagining it from the NCAA point of view. It is a difficult situation. I don’t have a clear-cut answer to solving it. I have more questions than answers. This is where my thoughts land…Do I think that college student-athletes should get paid? No. Do I think that we should and could be doing more for the athletes? Yes. Let me explain…first, I think we could be doing a better job explaining and valuing the education that they are receiving. Additionally, while I don’t think that that student-athletes should be receiving additional money, I do believe that schools should be allowed to spend money (or depending on what it is, more money) on “extra benefits” to help players: money to help fly family to visit, more money to spent on meals, more money spent on development type things (life skills, professional development, etc.), more money on stuff that would help with academics, etc. I also believe that it should be easier for athletes to get jobs and work while being a student-athlete. Fran Fraschilla has some good ideas that he outlines in his article.
My thoughts are continued in “If I Ruled College Basketball- Part #2”… stay tuned…