Beyond that is the question of how much power the NCAA has to implement the recommendations. Here, we break down the committee’s recommendations, the NCAA’s potential ability to implement them, and the cooperation it might require from groups such as the NBA or apparel companies:
1) End the one-and-done rule.
“The Commission calls on the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) again to make 18-year-olds eligible for the NBA draft, so that high school players who are drafted may proceed to the NBA.”
Can the NCAA do that? No. That’s up to the NBA and its players’ union, which require that players be at least 19 years old or at least one year removed from the graduation of their high school class before entering the draft.
2) Allow college players to test their pro prospects without losing eligibility.
“The Commission recommends that high school and college players who declare for the draft and are not drafted remain eligible for college basketball unless and until they sign a professional contract.”
Can the NCAA do that? Yes, with a caveat. Under current NCAA rules, there are multiple ways players could lose their eligibility when entering the NBA draft, the most common of which is by hiring an agent. Rice’s commission recommended the NCAA lets players who enter the draft but are not drafted change their minds and go back to school.
Though the NCAA could issue such a rule, the commission acknowledged in its report that the cooperation of the NBA would be needed to fully enforce it: Under NBA rules, players who enter the draft but aren’t selected become free agents and could sign with a team at any time. The commission thus requested in the report that players who aren’t drafted and then return to school be made ineligible to play in the NBA until they reenter in the following year’s draft.
3) Allow players talk to agents.
“The Commission recommends that the NCAA and its member institutions develop strict standards for certifying agents and allow NCAA-certified agents to engage with student-athletes at an appropriate point in their high school careers to be determined by the NCAA.”
Can the NCAA do that? Yes, with some help. The idea behind this recommendation is that high school and college players seeking professional advice — including whether to declare for the draft — often do so illicitly because NCAA rules don’t allow players to openly speak with paid advisers. Rice’s commission recommended the NCAA appoint a vice president-level executive to develop standards for certifying agents, and to administer a program that enforces rules for contact between agents and players.
But again, the report asked for cooperation from the NBA Players Association: “ … the NCAA and the NBPA should report to each other agents’ violations of their respective rules, increasing the potential costs of violating NCAA rules.”
4) Commit to paying for degree completion.
“The Commission recommends that the NCAA immediately establish a substantial fund and commit to paying for the degree completion of student-athletes with athletic scholarships who leave member institutions after progress of at least two years toward a degree.”
Can the NCAA do that? Yes, if its members are willing to share a bigger portion of their revenue. Under current rules, NCAA member schools can decided on their own whether to provide degree-completion programs. Rice’s commission recommended making the programs mandatory, perhaps using revenue from the NCAA basketball tournaments to help fun such programs at “relatively disadvantaged schools.”
5) Implement independent investigation and adjudication for complex infractions cases.
“The Commission recommends that the NCAA create independent investigative and adjudicative arms to address and resolve complex and serious cases (hereafter “complex cases”) involving violations of NCAA rules.”
Can the NCAA do that? Yes, but it will take big changes. The commission concluded that “the NCAA’s investigative and enforcement powers are inadequate to effectively investigate and address serious violations of NCAA rules in consequential situations” and called for “a complete overhaul” of how infractions are handled. It recommended the creation of independent bodies to investigate and impose punishment on member schools to commit violations, and that penalties be given for schools that do not cooperate with investigator.
6) Impose much harsher penalties on violators.
“The Commission recommends that the NCAA enact significant increases in the penalties imposed on institutions and individuals for violations of NCAA rules.”
Can the NCAA do that? Yes. The commission recommended that in the case of Level I violations, which are the most serious, member schools could be subjected to a five-year postseason ban. It also recommended that financial penalties for Level I violations allow for loss of revenue sharing in postseason play — including the NCAA tournament — for the duration of the ban.
Of course, the NCAA has come under criticism in many instances for failing to make full use of its power under current rules to punish violators.
7) Reform “non-scholastic” basketball, including AAU basketball.
“The Commission recommends that the NCAA take short and long-term actions to reform non-scholastic basketball and dissociate the NCAA and its member institutions from the aspects of non-scholastic basketball where transparency and ethical behavior cannot be assured.”
Can the NCAA do that? Definitely not on its own. The commission made three recommendations meant to clean up college recruiting: certifying non-scholastic basketball events attended by coaches of its member schools (for example, summer AAU tournaments); calling for increased financial transparency from the apparel companies, who in addition to sponsoring AAU tournaments and teams and have extensive relationships with colleges and individual coaches; and finally, suggesting the NCAA administer its own youth basketball programs and recruiting events, with support from the NBA and USA Basketball.
Those recommendations would require the cooperation of USA Basketball, the NBA, NBPA and WNBA, as well as apparel companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. The NCAA would also have to coordinate with tournament owners, event operators and sponsors to keep these events above board. The hurdle, of course, is that the NCAA holds no power over any of those bodies, and it’s unclear what incentive they would have to work with the NCAA.
8) Change the rules governing recruiting and coaches’ interaction with recruits.
“The Commission also endorses and recommends adoption of a number of the rule changes recommended by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and other organizations to reduce the influence of third parties and increase the ability of college coaches to interact with recruits and current players.”
(These recommendations, meant to cut down players’ interactions with third parties such as independent trainers or those offering to pay for school visits, were listed as part of the previous item in the commission report, but were specific enough to address separately.)
Can the NCAA do that? Yes, since coaches are employees of member schools. The commission recommended a few things here, including allowing coaches to attend two weeks of scholastic-sponsored events in June and three weekends of NCAA-sponsored events (once they’re established) in July. It also advised to allow players to begin taking official visits — defined as those that are financed in any way by the school — the summer between their sophomore and junior years of high school, a full year earlier than currently allowed. Finally, the commission recommended allowing coaches to provide more than two hours of skill instruction per week in the offseason.
9) Add public members to the board of governors.
“The Commission recommends that the NCAA restructure its highest governance body, the Board of Governors, to include at least five public members with the experience, stature and objectivity to assist the NCAA in re-establishing itself as an effective and respected leader and regulator of college sports.”
Can the NCAA do that? Yes. The current board of governors comprises 16 college presidents or chancellors, the chairs of the Division I Council and the Division II and III Management Councils, and the NCAA president. The commission argued that it is difficult for the members to remain objective about decisions affecting the NCAA as a whole while representing their college, conference or NCAA division, and thus public boardmembers would provide greater objectivity and “fresh perspectives.”