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NCAA rule changes won’t actually change much of anything

Michael McCann details how the NCAA rule changes will affect agents, college football players, and USA Basketball.

The changes that the NCAA officially ratified on Wednesday will do next-to-nothing to curb the kind of cheating that got the FBI involved in the world of college basketball.

And while some of the rules that were put into place will have an effect on the sport, for the most part this is window dressing, an effort to convince people that don’t know the difference that they, the NCAA overlords aghast at the corruption in their sport, are taking this oh so seriously.

Because the simple fact of the matter is this: Condoleeza Rice’s Commission on College Basketball was specifically tasked with eliminating the cheating that grew rampant enough for the Justice Department to decide that they would make breaking NCAA bylaws a federal offense, and none of the changes that they recommended and pushed into the college basketball rulebook will fix that.

They did not change the amateurism model, and thus, they will not put so much as a dent in the flow of money from those that have it -- shoe companies, boosters, agents, the coaches themselves -- to those that have value with no way to capitalize on it -- the players.

I’ve written about this before.

I’ve spent too many words and too many hours waxing poetic about how dumb you have to be to think you can stop that money from flowing.

So while I spend the rest of this column talking about the changes that were put into effect, read that while understanding that Rice’s Commission utterly failed in fixing what they were tasked with. I just don’t have the energy to write that column again.

Onto the changes that were made ...

The most talked about rule change is going to be that college players are now allowed to have agents, but the impact that will have will be minimal. Elite high school players will be allowed to sign with an agent on July 1st of their senior year, which is a good thing in theory. But it ignores the fact that these athletes, for the most part, already have a relationship with an agent, and that within the next two or three years, will be allowed to head directly to the NBA without having to due their time in college.

(UPDATE: The NCAA has since clarified that this rule change won’t actually take place until the NBA allows players to go directly to the NBA from high school.)

College players that declare for the draft will also be allowed to hire an agent during the draft process if they request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. They’re only allowed to have meals and travel during the draft process funded, they’ll have to disassociate with that agent (LOL) when they return to school.

Put another way, the whole “college players can now have agents” headline that you’ll see all over the place today will mostly be much ado about nothing.

The same can be said for the rule that will allow combine invites that don’t withdraw before the deadline to withdraw from the draft and that don’t end up getting drafted to return to school without penalty. While that sounds great on paper, the number of players that this will actually affect is minimal. In 2018, there were just six players that fit the criteria: Brian Bowen, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Malik Newman, Trevon Duval and Brandon McCoy. Bowen only entered the draft because he was likely not going to be ruled eligible, and I have a hard time believing that any of those other five players would have made the decision to return. They had professional options, and for the most part, when you sink three months into training to prepare for the draft, you will take whatever professional options are available. That’s just the way this works.

Both of these rule changes are steps in the right direction and certainly sound great in a headline, but the impact they will have on the sport of college basketball will be minimal in the real world.

And frankly, I’d argue the same can be said about the changes that were made to the recruiting calendar. This will have some impact -- one of the main talking points among coaches about the need for these changes was the money they spend on coaches packets at the myriad events they attend during July, and this will reduce that -- but for the most part it, all they do is change the weeks that coaches can take a vacation and force them to try and evaluate at camps, which is never easy to do.

In fact, I’d argue the only two changes that will make any noticeable change have to do with rules enforcement.

The biggest one is that, effective immediately, the NCAA and its Committee on Infractions can use information that is turned up by an outside entity for their own investigations. In other words, if there is a criminal investigation -- i.e. the one the Justice Department is currently pursuing -- than any documents that are turned up or anything that is said under oath during the course of the trial or the investigation is fair game for the NCAA.

That’s enormous, particularly for the people caught up in the FBI’s probe.

The NCAA also made an effort to give themselves subpoena power by requiring all athletics staff, including school presidents and chancellors, to be contractually obligated to comply with any NCAA investigation.

Those changes will have an impact.

The others will not.

It’s quite clear that the NCAA rushed through these decisions simply because it behooved them to have some good PR, and that will happed. The headlines will fool the people that read the tweet and don’t actually click on the article.

So good for them, I guess.

But they are kidding themselves if they think that any change is actually possible without addressing the amateurism model.