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The NCAA Passes On Summer Basketball (For Now)

Good idea or bad, why can’t we get a reasonably quick decision?

San Diego State v Connecticut
 HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 03: Final Four logo and co in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament National Championship game at NRG Stadium on April 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas.
Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The NCAA has always tinkered a bit with the game of basketball, but things have changed a lot with NIL, which was imposed by the Supreme Court and the various states of the union. The transfer portal was another shock to the system (there is currently a proposal to cut the time you can enter the portal down from 60 to 30 days).

Recent tweaks are more modest. For one, the NCAA will now allow players to use jersey numbers using 6-9 (no one currently at Duke has gone there yet, but Tom Izzy’s kid cheekily requested #69. Dad said no).

But some things move slower than others.

The NCAA has been mulling some level of summer basketball. According to ESPN, “[t]he Basketball Summer Initiative, a movement to create a bigger offseason spotlight for the sport, has gained momentum in recent years, resulting in a discussion about the possibility of limited competition in the summer, including two exhibitions, scrimmages or ‘tournament-style’ matchups for teams that would be open to the public.“

But both men’s and women’s coaches are not happy about it, and administrators are disinterested as well.

However, the players are broadly in favor of it, and why not? It’s obviously in their interest to play consistently. How else will you improve? There is a lot of money available around the world to talented and accomplished players.

Well summer hoops won't start anytime soon: the NCAA has tabled the proposal, promising to “study” it more.

It’s classic NCAA. The tendency to go slow really hurts periodically, most notably recently with NIL: the NCAA studied and foot dragged it until the federal courts imposed an unwieldy solution that necessarily varies from state to state. Now the NCAA is forced to ask Congress to standardize it and, well, to put it bluntly, what’s in it for them?

The NCAA never learns and getting anything done is next to impossible. This is why former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has for years recommended that basketball have a strong leader and separate itself from the god awful bureaucracy that has crippled the NCAA for generations. Being proactive would be a huge boon to the game. And, we might add, if something is tried and doesn’t work, then a simplified structure would mean you could quickly fix it.

Coach K’s suggestion has always seemed instinctively right, but here’s the problem: the NCAA will take months to appoint a committee to study it...the committee will take months to convene...and eventually recommendations will go to another committee and then to a panel and then, perhaps, tabled for future study.

What needs to happen, aside from K’s advocacy of what, for lack of a better word, we can call a basketball czar, is a radical overhaul of structures and procedures. As an organization, the NCAA is horribly run and managed. Perhaps new president Charlie Baker will have some ideas.