An NCAA committee yesterday continued to push forward legislation that would overhaul the recruiting process for all high school athletes, while also formally introducing proposals from basketball coaches that offers fundamental changes for that sport -- including allowing players a fifth year of eligibility.
The NCAA's Division I management council, which met Monday and yesterday in Baltimore, endorsed a series of recommendations made by a special recruiting task force that sought to minimize the "sense of entitlement and celebrity atmosphere that can ensue" when schools compete for high-profile recruits.
The recruiting proposals, which include prohibiting such luxuries as the use of private planes to transport prospective players for on-campus visits, stem from recent high-profile violations, such as those in the University of Colorado football program, and would apply to all sports. The proposals will be forwarded to the NCAA's Division I board of directors, which likely will approve them at its August meeting.
"I'm anticipating that [the proposals] will be well-received by the board, and that they will be in place for this coming academic year," said NCAA Vice President David Berst, who chaired the recruiting task force.
Should the board of directors approve the changes, schools will be required to eliminate special forms of transportation, such as private planes or first-class tickets for prospects to get to campus. Prospects and their parents would also have to stay in "standard lodging without special accessories," be served meals "comparable to those offered on campus," and schools could no longer personalize jerseys or put players' names up in lights in stadiums and arenas.
"I think the intent of this is definitely honorable," said Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow, a member of the recruiting task force. "There's the insanity of altered vehicles. Limousines and Hummers? Think about what we're saying here. What would it be like for a person who got picked up in those things? We want no five-star restaurants and private jets."
Though the recruiting overhaul, urged by a Congressional subcommittee earlier this year, appears to be on the verge of implementation, the changes for basketball can't be instituted sooner than 2005-06 .
This month, the National Association of Basketball Coaches -- spurred by low graduation rates, a growing number of transfers and increasingly earlier departures for the NBA -- proposed a series of changes that would allow more contact between coaches and their players and recruits, including an on-campus tryout, and would allow basketball players five years of competition rather than four.
The management council took no action on the basketball reform package this week but instead will forward it to schools and conferences. It will be distributed among NCAA committees this fall and could come up for final approval -- likely in a slightly altered form -- in April.
"I don't think what we did should be seen as either support or lack of support," said Chris Monasch, chair of the management council and the commissioner of the America East Conference.
In its proposal, the NABC argues that the restrictions on access has created a distance between coaches and players and has allowed more influence for AAU coaches and others in peripheral roles. A tryout, the NABC says, would allow a coach -- particularly one at a school that doesn't regularly recruit high-profile players -- to evaluate how a prospect fits in with his program.
"It really makes no sense why we can't have access to these kids," said Ron Hunter, the coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a member of the NABC committee that drew up the proposal. "The Marylands, Dukes and UCLAs, they're losing kids to the pros because the kids can talk to agents, to AAU coaches, but not to college coaches. . . . If an AAU coach can help a kid work on his jump shot, why shouldn't a college coach -- a professional -- be allowed to?"
The coaches believe a fifth year of eligibility is warranted because the average student, according to the NCAA, requires 4.8 years to graduate. Because men's basketball programs are allowed only 13 scholarships, they can't afford to redshirt the bulk of a recruiting class, as football programs regularly do. With the NCAA set to enforce major academic changes, including a reduction in the number of scholarships for programs that fail to meet minimum graduation rates, coaches are trying to figure out a way to make sure their sport isn't decimated.
"It's a very interesting proposal," said Wake Forest Athletic Director Ron Wellman, a member of the management council. "Many of the suggestions are very worthwhile, and it seems like it has the potential of changing the culture."