NCAA to Protect Amateurism as Defined Amid Hoops Changes

NCPA says NCAA commission is not open to meaningful reform and that current federal lawsuit may ultimately bring economic justice to college athletes.

Ralph D. Russo
March 29, 2018

NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks during a news conference at the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 29, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) The Associated Press

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Sports Writer

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — NCAA leaders expect to receive recommendations for reforming college basketball in late April and have pledged to quickly implement changes while preserving the status quo when it comes to amateurism.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday during his annual state of the association news conference ahead of the Final Four that the commission on college basketball, led by former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, will present their report to the Division I Board of Directors and Board of Governors on April 25.

As he has previously, Emmert drew a line at any suggestion of paying college athletes.

"The most fundamental principle here whether or not we want to have college sports as it exists today," Emmert said. "That is student-athletes playing student-athletes. Or whether we want to move toward a model where these are employees that are compensated whether directly or indirectly for their performances. And universities and colleges have very consistently said they don't want to have student-athletes become employees of a university. They don't want them to be playing for compensation. They want these young men and young women to be part of a higher education environment."

Emmert and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, the chairman of the Division I board, also pushed back against the idea of allowing athletes to be compensated by outside sources, such as endorsement deals.

Kaler called such a model "a slippery slope."

A federal investigation has alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks being funneled to influence recruits, an FBI probe that many fans believe reveals just a tiny slice of potential corruption in college sports.

In September, the Justice Department arrested 10 people, including four assistant coaches from Arizona, Southern California, Auburn and Oklahoma State. Payments of up to $150,000, supplied by Adidas, were promised to at least three top high school recruits to attend two schools sponsored by the shoe company, according to federal prosecutors.

The NCAA's response was to form the commission and task it with analyzing everything from the NBA's one-and-done rule to the relationship with agents to the influence of summer and youth leagues on recruiting.

"We are poised to act with efficiency and in a nimble and quick way," Kaler said. "We understand the severity of the challenges that we face. We understand the urgency with which we need to act, to move forward rule changes that will be effective for the next season."


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Emmert's latest defense of NCAA amateurism rules comes a day after a federal judge in California ruled that the NCAA will again have to justify its rules in court.

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilkens on Wednesday set a Dec. 3 trial date for two lawsuits that claim the NCAA and the 11 conferences that have competed in FBS-level football unfairly cap compensation for major college football and men's and women's basketball players at the amount of an athletic scholarship.

"This is a moment of judgment that we have been waiting and fighting for for a long time," said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association and an unpaid adviser to the plaintiffs in the cases.

Huma said he is skeptical any meaningful reform will come from recommendations from the so-called Rice Commission as long as the NCAA clings to its model for amateurism.

"They're not open to real reform," Huma said.

Not long before Emmert spoke at the Alamodome, there was a report from Yahoo Sports about McDonald's All-American basketball player Darius Bazley announcing he would not attend college but instead join the G-League, a developmental league affiliated with the NBA.

"I think that's a choice that ought to be available to him and anyone else," Emmert said. "If somebody looks at the G-League or playing in Europe or whatever their other professional options are and they decide they would rather do that for themselves and for their family, then fine. That ought to be available to them. I don't see why not.

"Now, I happen to think that going to college and experiencing everything that a college has to offer and still developing your skills and abilities as an athlete is a pretty good deal. It's hard to find better coaches, better facilities, better training, better development as an athlete than in a high quality collegiate program.

"It should be about what are the choices and options available to those young men," Emmert said.