The University Record, July 8, 1998

Changes in basketball recruiting, camps proposed by Big 10 chief

By Kerry Colligan

GossNational Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men's basketball could be in for major changes if Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and the U-M's Tom Goss have anything to say about it. In a teleconference June 22, Delany outlined a proposal--for which his office seeks support--that would overhaul the recruiting process in an effort to re-emphasize the goals of higher education.

The proposal suggests the voluntary removal of shoe company participation in summer camps, coupled with an effort to return the recruiting season to the high school academic year. If instituted, moving the recruiting season could put a financial strain on some smaller basketball programs. In fact, Delany says, the initial motivation for the summer camps was a need to cut recruiting costs. But the process has gone awry.

To re-establish a focus on education, the proposal also recommends that freshmen be ineligible for varsity competition and that players be given a two-year scholarship rather than one-year. Increasing the institutional commitment would give student-athletes the opportunity to adjust to college life.

While no one incident prompted the development of the proposal, Delany says that men's basketball has seen an increase in gambling incidents, point shaving and recruiting violations over the past few years. "We're less concerned about the marketing of college basketball than we are about the health of college basketball."

Delany has the strong support of Goss, the Don-ald R. Shepherd Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, and he believes there is "broad and deep" support among other Big Ten universities. He and Goss are discussing the proposal with individuals in other major athletic conferences such as the Pac-10, as well as with higher education groups such as the American Association of University Professors, high-profile coaches and the NBA Players' Union.

"Something dramatic needs to be done," Goss says. Basketball has major problems that run all the way down to junior high and high schools, he notes, starting with shoe company involvement with kids at an early age. A pattern has developed in which kids are participating in a number of basketball games outside of high school. In addition, some kids are flown around the country--at the expense of shoe companies--to play in summer camps sponsored by shoe companies.

Goss and Delany agree that a major part of the problem is that Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) coaches, agents and middle-men have all but taken over the summer recruiting process. "AAU coaches pretty much control what school young men will attend. They have made it a very difficult process for the evaluation of young athletes to take place," Goss says. "I am against summer camps altogether. But if we have to have them, I don't want to see shoe companies or agents involved.

"We have a lot of kids focusing not on graduation, but on 'how quickly can I get to the NBA.'" Elite high school competitions, all-star games, the NCAA tournament and discussions of the NBA draft--all compressed into an 18- to 20-month period--put a tremendous amount of pressure on young student-athletes, Goss says.

"I'm looking for a way to keep kids in school," Goss states. Modeling the NBA draft after those used by the NHL and MLB would make a significant difference, he argues. Once a student-athlete starts college, neither the NHL nor the MLB will draft him until after his junior year. This practice could help raise the 43 percent graduation rate in men's basketball.

Goss and Delany realize that the proposal needs widespread support for it to be successful. "We're not naive in thinking this is anything other than an uphill battle," Delany says. "We need to be honest about what we have here. College basketball has some of the very best elements that college sports can offer, but it also has some of the very worst. We have a responsibility to mitigate those things that we do that put a lot of pressure on the intercollegiate enterprise.

"That could happen in three or six months, or one year. There's a lot here and we'll have to be persuasive and persistent or nothing is going to happen. We're trying to move forward in a systematic and cohesive way. It will be a challenge to get support, but we're trying to get NCAA governance to deal with these issues in a comprehensive way," Delany adds.