An overhaul is on the way for men’s college basketball.

The NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball, established in response to a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball, is expected to release proposed changes to the sport on Wednesday, with the goal of final versions of the recommendations voted on by the NCAA executive board in August.

Led by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, the Commission has been tasked by NCAA President Mark Emmert with introducing legislation and methods to protect the integrity of college basketball and the principle of amateurism.

The proposals will focus on:

(1) the NCAA’s relationship with the NBA;

(2) improving the relationship between the NCAA’s national office and the universities to promote accountability and transparency throughout the sport; and,

(3) the relationship between the NCAA national office, member institutions, student-athletes, and coaches with outside entities (including agents and advisors, non-scholastic basketball, and apparel companies).

The Pac-12 and Big East conferences have proposed legislative changes that may offer a preview and foreshadow modifications that may be adopted by the Commission. Both conference proposals advocate eliminating the one-and-done rule prohibiting NBA teams from drafting players until they are a year removed from high school or until they are at least 19 years old. (While the NCAA and its member institutions can call for a change to this prohibition, it is an NBA rule that can only be changed at the professional level.) Professional-bound athletes forced to spend a season in college are considered more likely to accept money and benefits from boosters and agents, who have a financial interest in funneling these athletes to their institutions of choice, contributing to the corruption and lack of integrity necessitating the Commission’s formation.

Further, and in conjunction with the proposed rescission of the NBA’s one-and-done rule, the Big East proposes a “two or none” rule: players that choose to attend college must commit to their institution for at least two years, while high-school players who declare for the NBA draft would forfeit any future college eligibility. The Pac-12 recommends allowing an athlete who enters the NBA draft to retain college eligibility as long as he does not sign a professional contract.

Additionally, the conferences have suggested modifying current NCAA rules on to the use of agents and advisers, proposing that college basketball players be granted similar access to agents and advisers permitted for hockey and baseball players.

In those sports, student-athletes may seek advice from agents and advisers before declaring for their respective professional leagues. In basketball, any contact with an agent jeopardizes the player’s future college eligibility. The Pac-12 proposal would allow high-school athletes from sophomore class onward to seek professional guidance from agents.

The Big East and Pac-12 have suggested the assembly of an independent enforcement unit paid for by corporate sponsorships, television contracts, and other sources.

The Big East proposal includes an elite-player unit (EPU) to focus on the dealings and outside relationships of “players with realistic aspirations of playing in the NBA.” This unit would focus on:

  • Oversight of the relationship between apparel companies, coaches, schools, and the NCAA;
  • Agent regulation, including a tougher certification process than the current NBA and NBPA process;
  • Managing recruiting events;
  • Precollegiate advice for players in grades 8 through 12; and
  • Improved ethical conduct for coaches in recruiting.

Similarly, the Pac-12 investigative body would focus on the large issues facing college basketball, while rules involving minor infractions, such as institutions occasionally paying for family travel or meal expense, would be relaxed. It also includes significant disclosure obligations regarding college basketball’s relationship with apparel and shoe companies. Under the proposal, coaches and schools would be required to disclose the terms of all contracts with these companies.

Finally, both propose that the NCAA and USA Basketball take on a bigger role in non-scholastic basketball, referring to summer recruiting events sponsored by shoe and apparel companies with no connection to the NCAA. These events would transition from tournaments run by shoe and apparel companies to events co-sponsored by the NCAA. It is anticipated, that uch a change should foster better supervision over the conduct and potential impropriety of apparel companies seeking to establish relationships with student-athletes.

We will keep you apprised of the Rice Commission’s proposed changes and their potential impact on college basketball.

 

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.