NCAA woes: More fixing needed for hoops, all college sports

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — If the nine months leading up to Monday night’s national title game between Kansas and North Carolina have shown anything, it’s that college basketball and all of college sports are changing.

Whoever shapes all of these changes, and it won’t necessarily be the NCAA, will help decide whether the next decade in this multibillion-dollar ecosystem of sports, entertainment and education turns into efficiently run business or turns into chaos. Either one is a possibility.

The NCAA has struggled with rules and the results of efforts to pay players, ensure gender equality, block the recently relaxed transfer portal, streamline an increasingly messy infraction system and, of course, deal with the long-debated “One and Go” rule. .

And while the governing body is all but waving the white flag when it comes to uncovering many of the transformative changes these issues present, there is a growing sense that that might not be a bad thing.

“This is not the time to look at the details,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Friday, the day before his loss to North Carolina sealed his retirement. “It’s time to look at the whole thing.”

First on the to-do list is finding a workable system for “name, image and likeness” (NIL) agreements.

Players can now earn money from sponsorship deals. It’s a tremendous change in the entire dynamic of the university, a business where players made millions through March Madness, but most of it leaked to coaches, new stadiums and weight rooms and keeping the rest of the game going. university athletic department.

“I’m sure I’m happy to have a little bit of money in my pocket,” Duke guard Trevor Keels said over the weekend.

But some argue that NIL is a departure from what really needs to happen, which is to have schools pay players directly for their work.

In a roundabout way, that is happening anyway, as donors and others pumping money into athletic programs are now shifting some of the dough to school-branded “collectives” that create sponsorship opportunities for athletes.

The solution feels acceptable enough at the moment. But the NCAA has relinquished all control, depending on state laws, school oversight and, perhaps, an eventual federal law that regulates it all.

“It has been and remains the case that we need Congress to help us find a single legal model” for running NIL, NCAA President Mark Emmert said.

Under the current hodgepodge of rules, there is very little public information about who does what and who pays the bills. The concept of millions of dollars floating around without transparency seems to no one the best business model for a sport full of athletes in their teens and early 20s.

“One of my biggest concerns isn’t even getting players to campaign or getting paid,” said Barbara Jones of Outshine Talent. “It’s about them giving away or promising too much and they don’t even realize it.”

Another issue is gender disparity. Congress held hearings on the issue during the tournament. Last year, the differences in the way the men’s and women’s games were treated were summed up by a video taken by Oregon’s Sedona Prince of the poor weight room at the women’s tournament.

The NCAA commissioned a task force, and a panel submitted recommendations. Most of the changes have felt like window dressing. They included adding four teams to bring the women’s field to 68, moving the women’s final from Tuesday to Sunday, and putting the “March Madness” branding on the women’s tournament in addition to the men’s.

Meanwhile, the NCAA still has a vastly undervalued media contract for women, the details of which paint the picture of the NCAA as a deaf bureaucracy that doesn’t change with the times. The shortcomings are even more palpable on the 50th anniversary of the Title IX law that was designed to create equal opportunity for women in sports.

“I call it hotdogs for the girls and steak for the boys,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.

On the other hand, the new transfer rule is an attempt to rectify one of the biggest hypocrisies in sports, namely that coaches could move to the highest bidder without restriction, but players were not given the same freedom. Now they are, but when combined with NIL, it threatens to create a kind of free agency system, which many in the college game would like to avoid.

The complicated and inefficient rule book has also made the NCAA look like it’s stuck in concrete.

Emmert almost admitted that the solutions to establish an independent committee are not working well. One consequence is that he came to New Orleans with the prospect of presenting the title trophy to coach Bill Self, whose Kansas program has been tainted by a complex half-decade-old investigation that still threatens the future of the Jayhawks.

“It’s common knowledge,” Self said. “We’ve been dealing with some stuff off the pitch for a while.”

Like most schools that get into trouble, Kansas’ problems center around recruiting top talent, which brings us to the NCAA’s oldest problem: the “One and Go” rule that allows players leave after a year of college.

Emmert’s well-worn dodge on that rule is that it’s technically part of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, so what’s the NCAA to do? But when it comes to figuring out the details and how they impact the college game, Krzyzewski said he’s had more contact with NBA commissioner Adam Silver over the years than anyone in the NCAA office.

As Krzyzewski leaves practice in the rearview mirror, he is struck by the number of decisions NCAA boards and committees make that don’t deal with day-to-day issues.

He would like to see a less centralized NCAA, one that allows men’s basketball to decide its own issues, and perhaps the same with women’s basketball and every other sport.

Whether a new model resembles what Krzyzewski envisions, or something else, there is a growing sense that big changes are coming for college sports.

“Anything you work on, or whatever you do, it never stays in the status quo,” Self said. “We need to keep evolving.”

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