Colleges need to clean up basketball act


(Bloomington) Herald-Times

“A toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat.”

That’s what the Commission on College Basketball called the environment surrounding college basketball, a sport that has a huge presence in our community.

Indiana University is not among the big-name programs linked to a series of malodorous events that prompted the independent commission, led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The NCAA established the commission after a federal corruption investigation tainted high-level programs that, according to documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports, included Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Villanova and Xavier, to name just 10 of 20.

The investigation included allegations that linked apparel dealers, a shady summer travel team circuit and college assistant coaches in bribery schemes that delivered players to various universities.

The incidents were well beyond the cheating-by-impermissible-phone-calls that got IU and its former coach Kelvin Sampson in hot water a decade ago. It was more on a par with providing strippers and prostitutes for recruits, as reportedly happened at the University of Louisville.

A toxic mix of perverse incentives indeed.

Rice called the crisis “a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility.” Put another way, a lot of people have been turning their heads and ignoring reality so college basketball could continue to be a cash cow for universities.

The commission made several sensible points.

The one-and-done system in which players go to school for a year then jump to the NBA trivializes the student-athlete model. In most cases, those heading to the NBA don’t need to go to class after the first of March. NBA draft rules helped create this travesty and will be needed to help solve the problem.

On enforcement, the commission recommended tougher penalties for those who break rules, including lifetime bans for coaches. Note: Sampson is back in college coaching at the University of Houston.

It suggested some ways to address the issues with agents, apparel companies and summer basketball circuits. In those areas and others, it said correctly that universities and the people involved with college basketball must lead the effort to clean up the game. The commission singled out university presidents, who must take a strong stance on the place of athletics on their campuses.

“When those institutions and those responsible for leading them short-circuit rules, ethics and norms in order to achieve on-court success, they alone are responsible,” the commission wrote. “… (T)hey are the ones most responsible for the degraded state of intercollegiate athletics, in general, and college basketball in particular.”

Fortunately for IU, President Michael McRobbie and Vice President and Athletic Director Fred Glass have done much better than many of their peers in this regard. But they are swimming against the current of a broken system called out by an insightful commission. Changes are needed.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].

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