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3 rule changes that could help save college basketball

3 rule changes that could help save college basketball

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball (outside legal counsel sold separately in too many college towns to count right now):


Is it possible that a sketchy street hustler turned crooked agent is in position to do what all the pay-the-player activists over the years have not yet gotten done? Is it possible that Christian Dawkins (1) and his expense reports are going to change college basketball as we know it?

Maybe so.

The sport has been periodically immersed in scandal for more than 60 years without fundamentally altering the modus operandi. This feels different. With the federal government doing what NCAA enforcement cannot, the curtain was pulled back last week on an underground enterprise that is staggering in scope. It’s time to think about fundamental change, not more half measures and handwringing.

“There is no question that the scope of the most recent allegations of wrongdoing have brought us to a tipping point,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott (2). “All of us share responsibility for finding solutions to problems many have known about but have been unwilling or unable to address.”

The question is what and how, and who will drive that change. And the answer could be oddly intriguing. Is the sport waiting for former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (3) to ride in on a white horse and deliver a new model? She’s hardly the type of basketball insider some voices in the game have been calling for to lead the sport out of the swamp, but that may well be for the best — the people closest to the game are among those most responsible for the current mess.

NCAA president Mark Emmert (4) tabbed Rice to head a commission to study the sport and suggest reforms shortly after this scandal first blew up last fall. He sounds increasingly ready to listen to her findings, and to explore a radically altered collegiate model.

Among the ideas Emmert seemed willing to explore was allowing agent representation of basketball players while in college — something already in place in baseball and hockey.

“It makes perfect sense to me that [agent rules] ought to be very different than it is right now,” Emmert told CBS on Saturday.

As has often been the case this century, Mike Slive (5) was ahead of the game. The former Southeastern Conference commissioner was in favor of deconstructing the NCAA agent rules as far back as 2010. While Slive’s thoughts generated a lot of discourse, they didn’t generate much change.

“What we had hoped for was for a total rethink of the rules and regulations as they relate to agents,” Slive said in 2013. “A task force was formed and began to do some work and then for reasons I’m not clear on, the conversations ended.”

Consider the conversations restarted.

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