The nation's college basketball coaches can offer an extensive shopping list of reforms to clean up a sport that has grown into a multimillion-dollar entertainment extravaganza.
* Harsher penalties for cheaters.
* Tougher entrance requirements.
* Redshirting all freshmen.
* Sharing NCAA tournament revenues almost equally.
* Drug testing.
* Monthly cash payments to players.
* Streamlining hard-to-enforce rules.
But the biggest reform that must be made, warned Washington's Marv Harshman, who just retired after 40 seasons and 642 coaching victories, is a philosophical one.
"We need to get back to a lot of those associations where the athlete is a student and involved in all areas of schools, rather than kind of a glamorous participant who goes to class because it says you have to take so many hours," Harshman said. "He gets involved in the institution more in providing entertainment than being a rallying point for the students.
"That's idealistic, I guess, because, to get back to that, you'd have to crush the system."
Yet, the leaders of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and other prominent coaches say there are ways to eliminate many academic and recruiting abuses without crushing the system. The system, they point out, mirrors society's problems in dealing with ethics, drugs and gambling.
In academics, they would impose stricter entrance requirements. "We have to set standards of admissions, minimum standards to be sure, that insures the youngsters who are recruited into college athletics have at least a chance of doing college work," said Vanderbilt's C.M. Newton, an NABC board member.
Under current NCAA rules, an athlete is eligible if he has a 2.0 grade-point average, based on a four-point scale. Some schools base this average on all courses taken in high school, others only on academic subjects. Unless it is modified (as it is expected to be), Proposition 48, requiring a minimum of 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (or 15 on the American College Test) and a 2.0 grade-point average in a core curriculum, will become effective Aug. 1, 1986.
"The standards we have now are way too low," Newton said. "The abuses that I see deal primarily with academic abuses. I think if you eliminate that, you will eliminate many of the other abuses. Let the real marginal student go to junior college or community college, and prove they belong in a four-year school."
Arkansas' Eddie Sutton estimates that 10 percent of Division I coaches recruit players who they know cannot graduate from their school.
Newton said he was not surprised to hear that Chris Washburn was admitted to North Carolina State with a total of 470 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. "If you take a look, you'll probably find others with that college board or ACT score playing," Newton said.
"If we ever lose in athletics the respect of the academic community and reach a point where we're not dealing with student-athletes, then we have no reason to exist within the colleges. Then, you might as well have teams organized on a club basis, or semipro teams.
"Unfortunately, in the last five or six years, we've seen the use of guys who had no business in college and don't really care about being in college," Newton said. "Somehow, they play their one, two, three, sometimes four years, and go out on the streets. I don't say everybody should graduate, but at least you should be working toward a degree."
The NCAA, at its last convention, put more teeth in its "satisfactory progress" rule, requiring the progress to be in a degree program.
What specific minimum entrance standards the coaches want is ambiguous. Many coaches are sensitive to the bias that standardized tests have against many non-whites. As Iowa's George Raveling said, "The system is already built against blacks . . . Some kids find themselves later. It's better for four guilty men to go free than one innocent man to be imprisoned."
If an athlete meets those minimum admission requirements, whatever they end up being, he should not play his freshman year, according to many coaches. Sutton, for one, is a proponent of letting athletes play for four years after what amounts to mandatory freshman redshirting.
"There's an adjustment for every student," Sutton said. "They're still going to miss their mama and their daddy, and their mama's home cooking. Let them go to class and practice without the pressure of having to perform as rookies."
Said Stanford's Tom Davis: "They face such tremendous peer pressure when they don't succeed on the basketball court right away. It gives them time to adjust."
Unfortunately, such a noble academic goal is an economic issue, "hard to sell," as Sutton put it. In addition, such a rule probably would allow the bigger schools to stockpile players, as they used to do, thus eliminating the parity that has helped make the NCAA tournament what it is today -- a television property worth $32 million and the NCAA's major source of revenue.
The chase for that pot of gold -- the teams here for the Final Four are expected to receive about $708,000 each -- is a root cause of recruiting abuses. As a result, many coaches think that all 282 schools in Division I should share in the tournament revenues, even if the tournament is not opened to all of them.
"There's so much pressure to win now," said Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian.
"You have to cut down what the rewards are versus what the risk is," Harshman said. "Instead, they increase it (the Final Four payoffs)."
Some coaches would give every Division I school one share of the pot and those in the Final Four one additional share. Others would give the Final Four teams as many as three or four extra shares each.
To a man, coaches here would impose stronger penalties on cheaters, thereby lining up behind NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers, who proposes suspending the programs of schools that are chronic cheaters. They also would penalize athletes who knowingly cheat by taking money or other inducements.
"We always penalize the school," Sutton said. "Let's penalize the coach and the player, too. I'm not a great believer in the death penalty, but if (the NCAA) will say, 'You'll never play in the NCAA,' . . . those guys will think twice before they start accepting cars and cash."
Sutton also proposes that, if a school's program is suspended for a year, athletes legally recruited on that team be allowed to transfer and play immediately, without sitting out a year. Under current rules, athletes from a school whose program is disbanded can transfer and play right away.
Kansas State's Jack Hartman, the outgoing president of the NABC, said, "There are cases of cheating for profit. We've got to stop it. Speed up the investigative process. Give them (the investigators) what they need. Then impose strict, harsh penalties. Take away the program for a year. Fire the coach."
Sutton believes that 90 percent of recruiting violations can be cleaned up if the NCAA would give athletes a cash stipend of $50 or $100 monthly and two round-trip airplane tickets per year.
Then, say the coaches, crack down on the chronic cheaters. "To think that you can eliminate cheating completely is fantasy," Raveling said.
Yet, as it stands now, the system makes it harder for coaches to discipline their athletes, because many of the same coaches have acted unethically to get them. "It's a vicious circle," said Tarkanian.
"We have to stop looking the other way so damn much," said recently retired Ed Martin of Tennessee State, a 500-game career winner. "We're very hypocritical."
A number of coaches also say they are very naive about what Raveling calls "the new kid on the block -- drugs."
Drugs, intertwined with gambling, were a hot topic here this week after three Tulane University players were charged with fixing two of their team's games last month. The athletes allegedly were paid off, at least partly, in cocaine.
"It's more difficult today because of the drug situation," Sutton said. "That's how they get guys hooked. Whether those guys are innocent or guilty, I don't know. I hope they're innocent. But I can see it would be easier to get players involved today than the last time this thing happened."
Syracuse's Jim Boeheim would outlaw point spreads being published in daily newspapers. "It just promotes the idea in a 17-year-old kid that it's okay," he said. "If you ask young kids if gambling's legal, they'll probably say, 'Yes.' "
Harshman thinks it would be good for college athletics to take a step backward -- before the NCAA enforcement staff was centralized -- to the time when individual conferences investigated and penalized their own teams.
"You know more of what's going on in your league than anywhere else," Harshman said. "If I'm sitting in Kansas City and trying to follow up reports, it's a lot harder for me to find out what's going on in Seattle . . . In the old days, the leagues used to sit on their people better.
"It's kind of like your own family. You've got to discipline your own kids, rather than expect the school or the neighbors to do it."