The NBA and USA basketball were “blindsided” by Wednesday’s NCAA’s rule changes in response to an FBI probe into recruiting-related fraud and the ensuing Commission on College Basketball’s report chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Among the rule changes announced by the NCAA were: 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; and 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.”
Except, it appears the NCAA never consulted the NBA or USA Basketball before announcing those rules, which makes neither change relevant. Wojnarowski described it as “little more than a PR stunt” in an attempt to avoid addressing the hotly debated issue of paying college athletes for their work.
NBA, NBPA need to negotiate draft eligibility first
The NBA would first have to negotiate with the National Basketball Players Association outside the current collective bargaining agreement before reaching any conclusion on whether the few players who actually go undrafted and return to college can be barred from entering the league for a full year.
The current CBA runs through the 2023-24 season.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank: "We will review the NCAA's planned reforms and continue to assess, along with our Players' Association, the potential for any related NBA rules changes."
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 8, 2018
It seems the NCAA should have at least reached out to the NBA before implementing a rule change that not only impacted the league, but also required the NBA to make its own rule change as a result. This is especially true since the NBA and its players’ union jointly responded to the Rice commission’s April report by urging the NCAA to work collectively with the NBA, NBPA and USA Basketball.
USA Basketball doesn’t want to determine elite status
In a matter of hours, the NCAA was already forced to issue a clarification on the rule change regarding high school players signing with agents, announcing that it would only be effective if the NBA ends its age restriction on draft-eligible players. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly signaled that the league’s so-called “one-and-done rule” could eventually be eliminated, but that must also be negotiated with the NBPA and would reportedly not go into effect until at least the 2021 NBA draft.
“Regarding the NBA’s draft eligibility rules, the NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game,” the two sides said in their April statement. The league had come to no conclusions on draft eligibility and was still weighing its options at the time.
The NCAA is kicking the can down the road here. And even then, the NCAA hasn’t accounted for the fact that USA Basketball has neither the “desire” nor “infrastructure” to determine whether prep basketball prospects are elite enough to warrant signing with an agent, according to Wojnarowski. This is to say nothing of the fact that pairing agents with players at a younger age is a dicey proposition.
Again, maybe the NCAA should have consulted with the USA Basketball on that one.
In other words, the NCAA’s much-deliberated rule changes in response to a massive corruption scandal are reliant on the NBA and USA Basketball, neither of which contributed to the scandal nor were alerted prior to this announcement. Other than that, the NCAA rule changes weren’t all bad.
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