The NCAA announced a couple of changes to their rules recently and it caught the NBA and USA Basketball by surprise. The collegiate association has been in damage control mode in the wake of a series of FBI-backed investigations relating to recruitment-related fraud.
A section of the rules changes announced pertain to the flexibility of going pro and getting a degree.
- High school basketball student-athletes can make more frequent campus visits paid for by colleges (referred to as official visits). The visits can begin as soon as the summer before their junior year.
- Elite high school basketball recruits and college players can be represented by an agent who can help them make informed decisions about going pro.
- Agents must be certified by an NCAA program with standards for behavior and consequences for violations.
- Student-athletes will be able to participate in the NBA draft and return to school if undrafted, pending future action from the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Currently, college athletes who are interested in going pro can declare for the draft and attend the NBA combine, but must withdraw no more than 10 days after the combine to stay eligible.
- Division I schools will be required to pay for tuition, fees and books for men’s and women’s basketball players who left school and returned later to the same school to earn their degree. The NCAA is establishing a fund for schools who are otherwise unable to provide this aid.
It appears that neither the NBA nor USA Basketball was consulted on two items in particular:
1) allowing players who participate in the NBA’s draft combine to return to college if they go undrafted, so long as the NBA makes the “expected rule change” of disallowing players who enter the draft from becoming eligible until the end of their next college season.
2) granting high school basketball recruits permission to sign with agents on July 1 entering their senior years, so long as they are “identified as an elite prospect by USA Basketball.”
The thing is that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have yet to discuss and negotiate outside the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2023-24, on whether the players who go undrafted and return to college can be barred from being able to enter the NBA for a full year.
This puts the NBA on the spot and corners them into making a rules change of their own without being consulted by the NCAA.
These changes are clearly some kind of knee-jerk reaction to the ongoing probes. They appear rushed and clearly lacked the value of coordination with the organization that takes its players. Expect the NBA and the NCAA to be in dialogue in the coming months to sort this out and avoid further confusion and conflict.