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Reactions To The Rice Commission Report

Some good ideas but it may not go far enough.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Nashville
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 18: A detail of the March Madness basketball logo as seen during the first half between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Nevada Wolf Pack in the second round of the 2018 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.
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The Rice Commission released its report on Wednesday and the general reaction seems to be: not quite.

Gary Parrish argues that unless you deal with the black market the current system creates, you’ll never fix anything. Based on what we learned during Prohibition and the War on Drugs, it’s hard to argue not to mention various failed socialist states around the world, it’s hard to argue. If you try to suppress a market it just goes underground.

Dan Wetzel just mocks the whole thing as an exercise in obfuscation.

Mike DeCourcy is highly skeptical.

Jay Bilas at times is quite blunt and others diplomatic. In this case he was polite, finding some points to praise but overall seems skeptical.

You know how people sometimes say so-and-so will have a special place in hell?

UNC had a special place in the report. It’s on page 7:

“Member institutions should not be able to shield academic fraud to ensure athletic eligibility by extending that fraud to the entire student body. In addition, the NCAA’s imposition of discipline for academic fraud and misconduct has been inconsistent and untimely. The relationship between punishment and the school’s involvement, including its self-reporting, is unclear.”

This kind of explains or predicts why not much is ultimately going to happen.

Now that the sturm und drang is over, the report will go where all NCAA attempts at reform go to be watered down: committees. And that is inevitable because various factions will push to have their interests accommodated. Coaches won’t like the lifetime ban. Schools won’t like the idea of forfeiting tournament money if they’re on probation and no matter how much the various puritans protested UNC’s escape from justice in their massive academic fraud case, they also won’t like the idea of surrendering their own control over academic issues.

So while some of this may happen - there is apparently movement on the one-and-done stuff on the NBA’s side and the G League is getting close to a 1:1 ratio with NBA parent teams for instance - Parrish and Bilas are essentially right.

You can’t possibly hope to get rid of the corruption unless you deal with money openly.

We don’t necessarily mean paying the players. That’s a nice idea but it has some major drawbacks, including potential Title IX issues. And while Power Five teams could probably afford to pay athletes across the board (and they’d just cut more teams to cut expenses so a lot of women athletes would lose their scholarships anyway), a lot of schools, starting with a number of HBCUs, would simply be forced out of the NCAA or at least D-1.

All of this underscores Mike Krzyewski’s long-term argument for having a college basketball commissioner who could push changes through. Having a major figure at the center would be a huge asset.

But we do think that you could arrange some sort of grand bargain. You could get the NCAA, the NBA, the AAU, certified agents and shoe companies together and have some level of transparency, streamlining, financing and cooperation (by the way, why not certify coaches? Then coaches who lost their certification could be kept out of the sport for as long as needed).

As Seth Greenberg and Dan Dakich argued in their podcast Wednesday, the summer camps are a chance for players to get attention. We don’t mean guys like Marvin Bagley who got attention at an early age. We mean guys like Devonte Graham, who didn’t blossom until his senior year or Dennis Rodman, who was 6-2 when he graduated high school.

There are guys in small towns all across this country like Joe Girard or Mac McClung who may or may not get a lot of recruits passing through but who are capable of playing college basketball and who need a way to find their level. Think of Stephen Curry, who was doubted at every step until he proved himself in the NBA. Think of Wofford’s Fletcher Magee. Would anyone turn that guy down now? Hell no. He could play anywhere in the country. There’s a value for coaches to get to know these guys early and if we’re going to let agents do it, we ought to let coaches do it too. Frankly it’s just stupid to make it hard for coaches to get to know players. We don’t mean they way they play; we mean their character.

Many elements of the the current system, from the AAU on up, are pretty repulsive. It’d be much better to have it all above board. You can legislate all you want, but no one can legislate successfully against human nature.

No one is going to fix this stuff unless and until we’re honest about it. College basketball has a lot to offer, not least of all an education that is easily worth, over a lifetime, a million dollars and all the benefits that a liberal education should afford anyone willing to learn. That message should be more prominent. You might not make NBA money but you can make a solid living for the rest of your life with a college education.

No one has yet figured out how to deal with the money that flows through the sport like an atmospheric river, and that includes this commission, and that goes for college football as well.

And that isn’t going to get better until the NCAA figures out a better way to run things. The bureaucracy makes any kind of serious reform next to impossible. A few years ago, someone - we think Adam Silver - said that the NBA had approached the NCAA about working together on things like one-and-done. It was referred to a committee, then a subcommittee, then it disappeared from sight.

Coach K’s argument for a strong leader is more important now than ever.

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