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The NCAA Has New Basketball Eligibility & Recruiting Rules.... And They’re Maybe Not Any Good

When you have to add so many “but if” clauses to things, they’re probably actually bad.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-NCAA President Press Conference
What a goof.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

In case you have been living under three rocks lately, the NCAA has been making some changes to their rules regarding college basketball, recruiting, and eligibility ever since the FBI found out that there were more people on the take working in the college hoops industry than in Prohibition-era Chicago. After the initial round of proposals from the Rice Commission (#CondiWatch) was not greeted with resounding enthusiasm, the NCAA decided to follow up with another salvo of actual new and approved rules on Wednesday which has been meet with a healthy dose of skepticism, although skepticism is still better than the downright outrage the first reforms were met with. Here are the three main reforms enacted (there were others but they were of seemingly lesser consequence, go read all of them right here) and my own scalding (okay, lukewarm at most) takes on them:

ITEM #1:

The NCAA will allow for players who have entered their names for consideration to be drafted in the NBA draft return to school if they are not selected. Previously, players could enter their name, go through testing, have scouts render an opinion of their abilities, and then withdraw before the draft and return to play college basketball for the remainder of their eligibility. Under the new rule, players would be allowed to enter the draft and wait it out all the way through the end of draft night to see if they are picked and, if their name is not called, return to play the following season.

On the surface this seems like a pretty good idea. Nothing is forcing the players who just wanted to get the thoughts of some scouts on their game and then return to playing for their respective schools with that added knowledge to ride the process out all the draft and then be taken with the 58th pick and have their eligibility stripped. They can opt out early just like they could before.

There are a couple of issues here however. For example, let’s say Markus Howard averages 34 points per game this year, leads Marquette to a national championship, and decides to go pro. In turn, Coach Wojo replaces him on the roster with Nico Mannion (this may be a little optimistic but it’s my hypothetical, so shut up), but then it comes out the night before the draft that Markus has had his skills stolen by a bunch of aliens from Moron Mountain (if you don’t get this joke please turn off your computer and rethink your life) and Markus then goes undrafted. Marquette could end up in a situation where they now have 14 players for 13 scholarship spots. Although this situation is a bit outlandish, similar issues could arise if players are unexpectedly not drafted due to any number of reasons and their college coach had already filled their spot with another player. Overall, this problem could be remedied by allowing for schools to apply for a waiver for a 14th scholarship spot for a redshirted freshman who was supposed to be taking the spot of a player being drafted. This does require the NCAA to be competent enough to not allow this to be abused so we should probably table this for now.

There’s a couple of secondary problem to this “return after undrafted” issue, and that’s the fact that the player in question would also have to have been invited to the official NBA Draft Combine in order to be eligible to return to school. If the number of players that 1) get invited to the combine, 2) stay in the draft, and 3) go undrafted in any particular year exceeds 10, I’d be shocked. Essentially, the NCAA created a rule that affects almost no one, but it makes them sound really good. This rule also doesn’t kick in until the NBA and the NBA Player’s Association agree on a rule that would cause these rare undrafted players to be ineligible for the league until the conclusion of the following college season. In other words, as long as that NBA rule doesn’t exist, no one can actually return to school. Hooray.

ITEM #2:

College players and high school players are now allowed to hire agents as long as that college player has entered his name for consideration to be drafted and the high school player has been designated as “elite” by USA Basketball. College players must cut ties with agents if they are to come back to school and high school players must cut ties with any agents if they wish to play in college.

The first rule change did have a couple of glitches but this one is about as sound as Apollo 13. (Shoutout to Milwaukee native Jim Lovell.) The NCAA stated that USA Basketball would be the ones making the decisions on which HS players would be considered elite. This sounds mostly okay since USA Basketball is always putting together U16 and U17 teams for international competitions. Unfortunately, this creation of an “elite” assessment was not something that had been agreed upon prior to this announcement and it seems that USA Basketball does not have any real desire nor ability to make such designations. Their job is to field and maintain a high quality national team, even at the youth level, and not to decide which 17 and 18 year olds can hire agents. Much like their “this rule starts when the NBA changes a thing” condition for the undrafted return item, the high school player rule would be dependent on the NBA doing away with the one-and-done rule in the future, which is probably not until 2021 or 2022 at the earliest. The NCAA will oversee the certification of these agents, which in theory would weed out any bad apples trying to exert undue influence on college and high school players, however, considering the NCAA’s ability to oversee anything is pretty much shot after the whole systemic under the table payments/Louisville “dancers”/UNC fake classes scandals, this will probably go as well as giving a 105 minute inaugural address on a brutally cold day. Why? Well, because while you can retain an agent, you have to then cut ties with said agent if you want to play college basketball, either as an incoming high school prospect or as a player wishing to withdraw from the draft. If you believe that those financial relationships will actually be severed completely, well, I have some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you.

ITEM #3:

Players are now allowed 15 official visits rather than the previous five.

This is kind of misleading. It’s 15 if you take into account visits they can take AFTER starting college Five during their junior year, five during their senior year up until October 15th following graduation, and five more after October 15th and the end of their eligibility. So it seems like those last five are just for transfers, both from junior college and within Division 1. NEAT. Overall, the big winner of this is schools who are near a beach or have fantastic weather in general. With five total official visits during high school, players were pretty much limited to visiting schools they were very interested in. With 10 visits allowed before the fall semester of their freshman year of college, players would be able to take official visits to the likes of Hawaii, Pepperdine, Arizona State, and FGCU without any real interest in those schools. “No, seriously, I am very interested in the [checks list] PGA Golf Management program, please pay for my trip to Fort Meyers, Florida.”