Column: If I was Condoleezza Rice

President Donald Trump meets with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Oval Office, Friday, March 31, 2017. (D. Myles Cullen/Wikimedia Creative Commons)

It seems that any day now the commission Mark Emmert created will release its recommendations of how to “fix” college basketball. The taskforce, which was created as the FBI revealed layers of corruption across the sport, is headed by former Secretary of State and College Football Playoff member Condoleezza Rice. According to Yahoo’s Pete Thamel, Rice had private assurances their advice will be acted upon.

While it wouldn’t be the first time the NCAA have spoken out of both sides of their mouth, it appears real change is on the horizon. As Rice and co. finalize their work, I would love to be in her place, or at least have her read this column.

First and foremost on any agenda is player compensation. The reason there was a black market to pay players was because they couldn’t do it legally (in NCAA terms). College basketball is big business. The players generate a lot of revenue. I think a scholarship to receive a high-level education is of tremendous value and is the schools doing their part. But these athletes should not be limited to just a scholarship.

I would propose a model where these athletes are allowed to profit from their likeness being used. Apparel, endorsements, memorabilia, social media influencing, you name it. Put them in the EA video games and sell their jerseys; just give them a reasonable royalty on it.

The NCAA is hamstrung by the NBA’s age limit, which creates the “one and done” phenomenon. I believe it would be in the best interest of both bodies to adopt the NCAA hockey models. Allow NBA teams to draft players right out of high school. Then, they and the player determine their path forward. In the NHL/NCAA model, most players go to college. Some only stay one year, but most remain for two or three. If the player stalls as a prospect, then the club won’t sign them, meaning it is no risk to them. Similarly, if their development accelerates, then they leave.

Not all hockey players pursue the NCAA model. They can jump to the pros if both parties believe they’re ready. Some end up in the AHL, the NHL’s minor league. NBA teams would have this same freedom. If they want to take on the responsibility of developing a guy on their team or G-League affiliate, it’s their prerogative. If they want that onus elsewhere, which is the case in hockey, the NCAA is there. And in hockey, it often is the case where there are standout upperclassmen the draft process missed who have the freedom to sign with an NHL team of their choosing. Conversely, players who don’t like the organization holding their rights can finish college and become free agents when the hold on their ownership expires. These players are also allowed advisors.

I think this model would work beautifully for the NCAA and the NBA. There is a lot of freedom and choice for all parties involved. Both parties can find security and move in the system under a cooperative will.

It doesn’t appear to be in their current purview, but the Rice commission seems to be ignoring the transfer epidemic in the sport. Sorry to buy into the words of Jon Rothstein, but there is a little too much player movement for my taste.

There is a proposal to eliminate the mandatory one year of sitting after a transfer. Not a fan. It would be bedlam. I think there are better recourses available. Make the exemption available only to players with hardships or who have lost their coach. Better yet, like professional sports, have different scholarship lengths. Schools should be able to offer different types of scholarship agreements where some expire after a year, two years or three years, just like a pro contract. Players with extended agreements who transfer would miss a year due to violating the agreement. If that original proposal goes through, I would like to see a rule where the players now only miss a semester. At least that is somewhat of a deterrent.

The rules of the game are definitely outside the scope of what Rice is considering. But many find them flawed as well. There are lot of common calls for reform. Some I agree with, some I don’t. I support moving the three-point line to the NBA length. This creates better spacing and offense. I don’t support the move to quarters instead of halves. Not everything has to be uniform. The fact that college basketball has halves is part of what makes it unique. Part of the logic in moving to quarters is fixing the fouls dilemma. Teams and players get in foul trouble too quick, leading to long free throw shooting contests and star players sitting on the bench.

Currently the mark is the seventh foul for the bonus, 10 for the double-bonus and five fouls per player. Initially, just bump the bonus to the eighth team foul. That would ease some of the problem. Second, I’m going to get wonky here; how about a “marginal foul player” concept? The NBA allows players six fouls. What if prior to games, coaches could choose three players who are allowed six fouls, while the rest stay at five? The problem with five fouls are when the best players aren’t playing. If coaches could protect them a little more, it removes that concern while still punishing others for fouling too much.

I love college basketball as a product. Bill Simmons has his ideas of a Sports Czar (well, if there was ever to be a college basketball czar, give me a call). I am passionate about the well-being of the game, on and off the court. Clearly it is starting to suffer. A major criticism of Rice’s panel was their lack of understanding and skin in the game. Hopefully it’s not valid and what they produce will lead to meaningful improvement in the game. If not, just forward them this 1,000 word diatribe, and we’ll get there.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.