The Drake Group Questions NCAA Division I Basketball Rules Changes

PRESS RELEASE – AUGUST 21, 2018

For immediate release
Contact:
Fritz Polite, President
The Drake Group
(407) 758-0811
fpolite@su.edu
TheDrakeGroup.org


The Drake Group Questions NCAA Division I Basketball Rules Changes

NEW HAVEN, CONN. – The Drake Group (TDG), a national organization of college faculty and others whose mission is to defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports, has released a position statement today that is both complimentary to and critical of the recently announced NCAA Division I basketball rules changes.

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A preface to this response is necessary. Despite its recent reforms to Division I basketball, the NCAA continues to react to events instead of leading college athletics to a more educationally sound future. The changes it has made to Division I basketball misled the public into thinking that the corruption recently unearthed in that sport has been addressed. It hasn’t. In the Drake Group’s view, the NCAA’s lack of leadership is reflected in its failure to make rules that promote athlete welfare and academic integrity. Instead, it uses a flawed academic metric (the Graduation Success Rate or GSR) designed to hide the underperformance of football and basketball players and refuses to remedy the academic fraud that its member institutions commit to keep athletes eligible. It also permits financially wasteful special treatment for athletes – particularly lavish athletes’-only facilities that isolate the athletes – to satisfy coaches’ insatiable appetite for a recruiting advantage, while hoping to hide the costs from the public. Real leadership on these issues would put in place practices that enhance athletes’ educational experiences and protect them from injury, abuse, and academic exploitation. Thus, the Drake Group believes that the present NCAA leadership is unwilling to clean out the rot in commercialized college sport and fulfill its primary responsibility to ensure the welfare of college athletes and protect the academic integrity of higher education.

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Drake Group President Fritz Polite, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at Shenandoah University (VA), applauded NCAA efforts to improve its enforcement program: “The use of independent investigators and a fifteen-member adjudication panel are long overdue changes. NCAA members and the public have criticized the bias and conflict of interest inherent in members judging institutions against which they compete. The perception exists that the major revenue-producing institutions receive favored treatment under this system.” Similarly, Polite offered kudos for the reinstatement of rules requiring coaches to declare outside income, to make such reports publicly available, and to establish more rigid certification standards for high school summer events.

However, the Drake Group goes on record as having strong concerns about the remaining NCAA basketball rules revisions:

Change: “Elite” college athletes seeking to enter the draft may be represented by agents who will have limitations on the expenses they can provide.

TDG Concern: No process has been defined to determine “elite” status, which may invite antitrust or equal protection litigation regarding an arbitrary evaluation and labeling system. Athletes in all sports should be permitted to hire agents. It is reasonable for the NCAA to control expense reimbursement by agents, but the NCAA must also control certification of agents to ensure that an agent does not represent both athletes and the coaches who are recruiting them.

Change: If the player is not “selected” in the draft, the player has the option to return to collegiate competition as long as any contract with an agent is terminated.

TDG Concern: All athletes should have the right to participate in a professional draft with no penalty unless they actually accept an offer of employment. Athletes should not be considered “professionals” and declared ineligible for college sport unless they sign a professional contract. If an athlete is “selected” in the draft and then decides not to turn professional, the athlete should remain eligible for college play.

Change: The current limit of five campus visits has been expanded to fifteen: five in the junior year, five in the senior year, and five once a player has declared an intent to transfer.

TDG Concern: The current rule limiting athletes to five paid visits is sufficient and far in excess of benefits provided to non-athlete students. All NCAA athletic programs are operating at a deficit except for 20-25 Division I FBS programs and most athletic programs are supported by institutional general funds or mandatory student fees. The Drake Group believes that five visits before college enrollment and five visits after college enrollment are sufficient. Any additional visits will add to the recruiting arms race and its associated expenses.

Change: College presidents and chancellors will be held personally accountable regarding the requirement to cooperate in NCAA investigations.

TDG Concern: How these institutional leaders will be held accountable is undefined, except for the suggestion that they may be ineligible to serve on the NCAA Board of Governors. The NCAA refuses to use enforcement mechanisms that would be more effective, such as ineligibility for national championships or suspension of membership.

Change: Division I member institutions will be required to pay the tuition, fees, and books for any athlete who spent at least two years as an undergraduate to return to complete a degree within ten years of their previous enrollment and only if all other funding options have been exhausted.

TDG Concern: All NCAA member institutions should be required to do so for all athletic scholarship athletes, not just the so-called revenue sports. Basketball and football in particular are currently exploiting underprepared college athletes, many of whom are athletes of color, by waiving regular academic admission standards and compounding their academic difficulties by imposing unreasonable sport time demands. The message sent by this rule is, “Don’t worry about performing academically. We have your back if you want to return to school.” The Drake Group believes this benefit would be acceptable only if the athlete leaves in good academic standing and if the benefit were not limited to sports that generate revenues.

TDG Concern: It is unclear how an athlete will prove that he or she has exhausted all other funding options. There are numerous local, national and institutional scholarships available from multiple sources for which these students might be able to qualify. It seems unlikely that the NCAA will or could maintain a list of such sources that the athletes need to try in order to determine whether the search has been “exhaustive”.

Polite added, “The Drake Group is disappointed that the NCAA continues to ignore the athlete employment issue, which was the primary underlying issue in the FBI investigation of the NCAA basketball debacle and which the Rice Commission Report also ignored. Athletes should be allowed to earn money outside of school by exploiting their names, images, and likenesses (NILs) just as any other student with a special talent.” Three fairly simple oversight rules previously proposed by The Drake Group could control improprieties. The member institution should be required to review written terms of any NIL agreement to ensure conformance with the following stipulations or conditions: (1) use does not include the name, marks, institutional colors, or affiliation, implied or otherwise, of the student’s institution or the use of institutional facilities or properties for such engagement; (2) the institution’s employees or others engaged by the institution are not involved (i.e., identification of possible employment opportunities, introductions, etc.) in obtaining the employment; and (3) the employer attests that the remuneration is commensurate with the going rate in that locality for services and the athlete is paid only for work specifically described and actually performed.”

Finally, Polite stated that he would be remiss if he did not address the NCAA’s most significant reform failure: “The Drake Group is particularly concerned that the NCAA continues to ignore its responsibility to find member institutions guilty of academic fraud committed for the purpose of maintaining athlete eligibility. Expecting institutions to self-police in this area is unrealistic and a serious dereliction of duty with regard to the basic responsibilities of a national athletic governance organization.”

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