Florida athletic director emeritus Jeremy Foley said he understood the responsibility of serving on the College Basketball Commission.
Foley came away awed at the communication and leadership skills of Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State under George W. Bush who chaired the committee.
“Her incredible ability to grasp the issues and separate what’s important and not important and to ask questions, it was a real lesson in leadership for me,” Foley said.
Foley also said there was a clear consensus among all 12 who served on the committee — despite growing public sentiment that college basketball players should be paid, amateurism was worth saving.
“Not one person in the room felt we should stray from the intercollegiate model,” Foley said.
The College Basketball Commission’s 60-page report doubled-down on the amateur model, calling for stricter penalties for coaches and administrators who cheat, involving USA basketball to reform grassroots basketball and imploring the NBA Players’ Association to change its current “one-and-done” model in order to create separate tracks for college and professional basketball players.
“We put some things forward that can help change college basketball,” Foley said. “It’s not getting fixed overnight and cultures don’t change overnight. But that process has to start somewhere and I’d like to think it started with our recommendations.”
The NBA raised its age limit to 19 in 2005 to allow scouts and personnel executives to evaluate players in big-time college basketball settings. But it’s created more financial involvement from agents and apparel companies in trying to secure elite players as early as high school. Those financial entanglements were revealed in last October’s FBI probe which resulted in bribery and kickback charges involving college basketball coaches, AAU coaches and apparel company executives.
“There’s a professional model,, a professional track,” Foley said. “And those people who want to play that, that’s absolutely fine, and we support that. They should have the ability to go do that and that’s kind of what we were recommending there. There’s two tracks here. Both of them have their merits and one is what we would call the professional track and one is what we would call the collegiate model. But we’re committed to keeping those things separate.”
Getting rid of the one-and-done would need to be collectively bargained by the NBA Players’ Association and management.
“I don’t know what the NBA is going to do with the one and done,” Foley said. “Obviously, they control that, but you know, you listen to (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver, he understands that college basketball and the sport of basketball is not in a good place right now and I’m not going to try to predict what they are going to do but I do think they want to be part of the solution.”
The committee did call for other interesting reforms, including allowing players who declare for the NBA draft and don’t get selected to return to school and for agents to be involved with players during their college careers. Those agents, though, would need to be certified by the NCAA and would be regulated under strict amateurism guidelines.
“If you have agents who don’t want to be certified and who don’t want to follow the certification rules, they’ll get de-certified and if you are an athlete that does business with them, you’ll be ineligible,” Foley said. “So that the end of day, they should put it all on top of the table, just do our business the right way. Again, that may seem pollyannaish, but that’s the intent. But right now you have that, obviously you can have some unintended consequences, but you have agents getting involved with athletes now. Let’s put it all in the light and take it out of the dark.”
The committee did not put forth any proposals on whether college athletes should be able to profit of their Names and Likenesses because that issue is currently tied up in federal court.
The recommendations have been passed to NCAA President Mark Emmert, who hopes to adopt most if not all of the proposals by August. Foley said stricter penalties for institutions who cheat, including a proposed five-year postseason ban for Level I violations, was imperative given public perception of college basketball following last October’s FBI probe.
“The penalty component is harsher as it should be.” Foley said. “One of the reasons we are in this mess is that there are a group of coaches that felt like the rules were not for them. That has to change.”