When news broke yesterday that the NCAA would make changes in their rules about basketball players and how they made decisions regarding the NBA draft, I thought that the NCAA had been in communication with John Wooden from wherever John Wooden’s spirit may be in the cosmos. One of Wooden’s favorite aphorisms was:
“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
Starting now, the NCAA will allow “elite players” to sign with agents prior to the NBA Draft and will allow those players to return to school with their eligibility intact in the event that they are not selected in the NBA Draft. Moreover, it appears that agents will be allowed to pay expenses for travel to the Draft for the players and their families.
Even though this is not the reform that I would have favored regarding college basketball, I have to give the NCAA credit for taking seriously the recommendations of the Blue-Ribbon Panel – chaired by Condoleezza Rice – and making changes to a system that was outdated and ineffective. Even though I remain unconvinced that the FBI probe of college basketball is an appropriate use of Federal tax revenues, I do recognize that the combination of the NBA’s insistence on a player being a full year out of high school plus the NCAA’s antiquated ideas about amateur student-athletes has torn the fabric of college basketball apart. The changes announced yesterday do not fix the problems once and for all, but they are a small step in the right direction and the NCAA needs a pat on the back today.
As Coach Wooden said, the “little details are vital.” Here is a little detail that needs to be spelled out clearly:
- This change in eligibility status applies to “elite players”. So … how does one select the “elite players” from the “rest of the herd”?
I will be shocked if this selection process is not assigned to a committee of sorts and committees bring together a bunch of people all of whom have agendas.
- Will agents be allowed to be on that committee? I hope not.
- Will college coaches/ADs be allowed to be on that committee? I hope not.
- Will anyone associated with AAU basketball be allowed on that committee? I hope not.
- Will anyone associated with Nike, Adidas, UnderArmour, etc. be allowed in that committee? I hope not.
So, who will be on that committee who brings knowledge and credibility to the table but not a glaring conflict of interest? Identifying such a group will be a challenge but I have a nominee for the Chairman of the Elite Player Identification Committee:
- I nominate the former College Basketball Fan-in-Chief … President Barack Obama.
- The NCAA can fill in the rest of the seats at the table.
The folks who run the WNBA took a few days to arrive at the decision to call the game between the Las Vegas Asses and the Washington Mystics – – the one where the Asses pulled a no-show – – a forfeited game. Had they done otherwise, they would have opened Pandora’s Box with regard to other teams deciding to pull similar stunts in the name of “health and safety” and they would have diminished the already tarnished image of the WNBA. Here is a statement from Lisa Borders, the president of the WNBA:
“We worked extensively with both the Aces and Mystics to come up with a workable solution. In the end, given the limited number of days remaining in the season and arena availability, we decided to delay the start of the game until 8 p.m. to give the Aces as much time as possible between their arrival in Washington, D.C., and tipoff.
”While not ideal, it was the best available solution to accommodate both our fans and the scheduling challenges. Since the Aces chose not to play, the result is a forfeit.”
The Asses and their coach, Bill Laimbeer, disagree with the decision to forfeit the game; here is what Laimbeer had to say:
“We are disappointed with the league’s decision, but our focus is now on winning as many games as we can in our drive for our first playoff appearance.”
I recognize that Laimbeer has no choice to say what he did there, but I hope he recognizes in his gut that the league had no other choice in the matter.
Speaking obliquely about pro leagues and their schedules, the NBA announced that it will play 2 games in Mexico City next season. The Orlando Magic will be in both games that will take place in mid-December at the Mexico City Arena.
- Dec 13: Magic vs. Chicago Bulls
- Dec 15: Magic vs. Utah Jazz
Absent an Act of God like an earthquake, I am confident that the teams will show up and play those games despite any travel rigors they may encounter.
Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald regarding Orlando:
“NFL announced the 2019 Pro Bowl would be returning to Orlando, and nobody cared.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………