The Bilas Opus: Here to rescue college basketball
By Jay Bilas, ESPN.com, 11-9-17
Welcome to The Opus, the most comprehensive view of the wide landscape of college basketball. The Opus is not a preview, it's an awakening -- not to what could happen in the game, but what will happen. The Opus removes all mystery and intrigue. The accuracy of The Opus is beyond pinpoint. The Opus is not a road map to be unfolded at a gas station by the side of the road. The Opus is more accurate than GPS and is both celestial and terrestrial.
.The power behind The Opus is the supreme basketball knowledge of The Bilastrator's gray matter, the most awesome force in the game's history -- The Bilastrator's brain. His supercharged cranium can measure and sort data for its predictive accuracy and rapidly quantify exactly how covariates might determine each individual outcome. In short, The Bilastrator knows his %&@#. After reading this masterstroke, so will you. As always, you're welcome.
.Despite the negative publicity that has hit college basketball in the past month, this will be a great season. There is wonderful young talent and some fabulously experienced teams to challenge that young talent and create a magnificent contrast. This, too, will be the Year of the Big Man. There is tremendous size and backboard-dominating talent coming into the game. One thing is certain (other than the supremacy of The Bilastrator's basketball judgment): You had better be able to get the ball off the glass or you will give up second shots to the size in the game this season.
.College basketball has taken some well-publicized hits over the past month, and it seems that most of it has come as a surprise to those working in the NCAA office in Indianapolis. Certainly, the involvement of the FBI and U.S. Attorney and the weaponizing of NCAA rules through federal charges against 10 individuals came as a surprise to all, but the underlying conduct should come as a surprise to no rational professional who is paying any attention.
.Of course, in the wake of this news, the NCAA did what it does best -- outside of making money. It formed a committee.
.NCAA president Mark Emmert decided to release polling data to demonstrate public confidence in the NCAA has eroded, that most Americans believe the NCAA is more interested in money than in its athletes. Well, The Bilastrator could have saved Emmert the money he spent on such polling. There is no public confidence in the NCAA, and that has been the case for years. And the NCAA has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that it is more interested in money than it is in its athletes. When the NCAA invented the term "student-athlete," it was not to benefit the athlete, but to ensure the NCAA would not have to pay workers' compensation. Everything the NCAA does is about money. There is nothing wrong with an athletic association having a primary focus on athletics and money, but the NCAA and its literati should admit it.
.It is not at all surprising that Mark Emmert is using this "crisis" to forward an agenda. He has never let a good crisis go to waste before, so there is no indication he will let this one go to waste. But his rhetoric in the wake of this crisis is absolutely galling. To suggest that there is a code of silence in basketball that kept the NCAA in the dark is absurd. The NCAA and its people had as much knowledge of the basketball landscape and culture as anyone else. In fact, the NCAA had knowledge of Pittsburgh-based financial adviser Martin Blazer back in 2010 as part of the North Carolina investigation, but the NCAA decided to focus seven years of an investigation into a non-case against North Carolina instead. At the close of the North Carolina case, Emmert had the chutzpah to claim the Committee on Infractions was "hamstrung" by NCAA rules. What? It took seven years to determine the rules did not allow a prosecution of North Carolina? That is not just disingenuous, it is simply false.
.The NCAA is in dire need of an overhaul, but not just because of the current climate around college basketball and football. The Bilastrator has been telling the NCAA it was in dire need of an overhaul for well over a decade, and the NCAA didn't listen. Well, the NCAA should have listened, and should listen now.
.Here is The Bilastrator's handy Opus guide to a complete and healthy overhaul of the deeply flawed and troubled NCAA and its antiquated and overly complicated rule book. As always, you're welcome.
.College basketball needs a commissioner
Basketball is the NCAA's biggest (really, only) revenue generator. In 1984, college football effectively broke away from NCAA control to operate separately from the NCAA office in Indianapolis. Therefore, since basketball is the NCAA's only real cash cow, basketball should have its own, separate governance structure. College basketball is a multibillion-dollar industry and should be governed in such a fashion.
The NCAA needs to appoint a commissioner of college basketball and confer upon the commissioner the appropriate power and authority to govern the game such that it can pivot and adapt to a changing landscape. There should be a small college basketball board of governors to whom the commissioner should answer, and the rest of the NCAA presidents should stay in their own lanes and run their own schools. The commissioner and board will govern only Division I basketball, and all other divisions can remain under the current structure or develop their own governance structure. Only Division I generates revenue and the resulting problems, and only Division I needs to be addressed in a special manner.
.New rule book for basketball
.This is not to be confused with rules of play. The commissioner and board of Division I need to formulate a rule book specifically for Division I basketball. It will not be difficult; it will be simple. Throw out the old rule book and allow only rules that are important to the overall health and welfare of the enterprise. The rest need to go.
.Division I basketball must contract
.No reasonable person can possibly believe that Division I is not far too big. There are 351 Division I teams in men's college basketball, and that is ridiculous. Division I should be reduced to approximately 120 teams. With a smaller number of Division I teams, there will be more quality players spread out over fewer units. Teams will have greater depth, talent and roster and lineup flexibility. With more talent spread out over fewer units, there will be more money spread out over fewer units, too. It is a no-brainer. Those not making the cut may certainly play in their own division and govern it the way they want. Division I can still invite lower-division teams to participate in its postseason tournament, but they would not play during the regular season.
.Reformed adjudication system
.The current "collegial" system does not work, and it has never worked. Not long after Emmert became NCAA president in 2010, he and I met to discuss issues facing college sports, specifically basketball, and he asked me about my feelings on certain infractions cases. When I said the system was in dire need of change, he disputed that and said he and the membership believe the system works quite well. Well, he was wrong then, and he is wrong now.
.The NCAA needs an adversarial system of dispute resolution. The NCAA can and should have an enforcement arm, but that arm should investigate and bring cases, not decide cases. Both the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) have their disputes resolved before the American Arbitration Association. If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for the NCAA. That way, schools, coaches and administrators can defend themselves against charges brought, and all cases can be adjudicated by a panel of independent arbitrators agreed upon by the parties. It would be simple, fast, consistent, authoritative and trustworthy. Right now, it is none of those things.
.Exit the eligibility business
.The NCAA is an athletic association and does a great job running tournaments and championships, and it does an extraordinary job of making money. It does not, however, do a very good job of determining eligibility of incoming players or current players. Those decisions should be up to each institution, just as the admission and education of each student is up to each institution. This is where the NCAA's high-minded rhetoric and moralizing have brought nothing but trouble. Having the NCAA regulate academics and academic eligibility is like having the NFL regulate medical practices at area hospitals in NFL cities. Each school is responsible for the admission and education of every non-athlete student with no oversight outside of accreditation. They can be trusted to do the same with athletes. NCAA involvement in eligibility, initial and otherwise, is costly, controversial and of very little value. There is no legitimate reason to continue. If conferences wish to perform such a function, knock yourselves out.
.Mark Emmert falls all over himself to state that students cannot be employees, or else why should they even go to school? That is nonsense, and NCAA policy and the schools themselves prove it. All non-athlete students are allowed to work for the university they attend, and such employment has no bearing on their status as full-time students. Similarly, all non-athlete students are allowed to be employees of outside entities, and such employment has no bearing on their status as full-time students. The idea that students cannot be employed while enrolled is a lie. It always has been a lie. Similarly, athletes are allowed by NCAA rules to have jobs while in school (as long as those jobs are not based upon their athletic reputations). Therefore, there is no impediment to any athlete being employed while in school and playing a sport. The NCAA is lying when it states that students cannot be employed.
.There is no legitimate reason to limit athletes from working for or contracting with outside entities for services, name, likeness or publicity rights. It is past time for athletes to be allowed to realize upon their value in the marketplace. Right now, the FBI probe and resulting federal charges are due not to federal law, but NCAA policy. For the alleged actions NOT to be crimes, federal law does not have to change, only NCAA rules have to change. That speaks volumes about how ridiculous these rules can be and are.
.Money and education are not mutually exclusive. That is proven by the fact that non-athlete students are not prohibited from earning money from the school or outside the school while at the same time being full-time students.
.Players should be allowed to sign contracts with agents. The NCAA can certify agents just like the professional leagues do and regulate their behavior. It is not that difficult.
.The Olympics dumped amateurism 30 years ago. It is time for the NCAA to do the same.
.Immediate resignation of Mark Emmert
.This last reform is not suggested lightly. This is not about the person, but about the position and the results achieved by the position. Mark Emmert is a nice person and a person of goodwill with good intentions. He has been, however, a poor leader who has achieved poor results. He should resign immediately and allow the NCAA to move forward with better leadership.
.To paraphrase Ronald Reagan on Jimmy Carter: Is the NCAA better off now than it was when Mark Emmert took over as president? The answer is clearly no, and Emmert's recently released polling data proves it. The NCAA has never been held in lower esteem, has never had more scandal and has never been more out of touch. On Emmert's watch, the NCAA had the fiasco of Penn State, and absolute silence and inaction with regard to Dr. Larry Nassar. The NCAA has had the Miami scandal for which Emmert had to hire Kenneth Wainstein (who investigated North Carolina) to investigate the NCAA; then Emmert fired Julie Roe Lach, whom Emmert himself hired to run enforcement. The Miami scandal happened right down the hall from Emmert's office.
.Then, when the current FBI probe became public, Emmert expressed surprise that there was cheating in the game, and he stated for the first time that the system was broken. After all, Emmert defended the system and never said or implied prior that the system was broken. He defended the enforcement system and never said or implied it was broken. In fact, he defended both under oath in the O'Bannon trial. He is, at best, out of touch on such issues. Such a flip-flop on a vital issue shows a total lack of understating of the enterprise.
.Emmert spoke of the COI feeling "hamstrung" by the rules, rules he supported as president and as a university president. His enforcement staff had better things to do than chase a case it knew it could not win against North Carolina, at the expense of dealing with the issues that later were addressed by the FBI and U.S. Attorney. Again, the NCAA was fully aware of Martin Blazer in 2010 in the North Carolina case, yet chose not to pursue it. Emmert was NCAA president at the time and, with all due respect, was either willfully blind or clueless on the importance of the issue.
.On his watch, the NCAA has been exposed as dysfunctional and ineffective, and his leadership has brought us to this low point in the NCAA's history. Nobody should take pleasure in asking for someone to move on and find other employment, but it is time for Mark Emmert to go. If the same accountability of athletic leaders is applied to Emmert, his leadership clearly did not lead to positive outcomes. He said the NCAA has to "own" where it is right now. Well, Emmert, too, has to own where he has guided this ship, which is right onto the rocks.
This article has been reprinted on Clips with the permission of ESPN.com