It’s astonishing to me how college football, which operates under the NCAA umbrella and has done so gainfully and successfully for decades, can be so segmented during a time when conferences need to come together to find a way to play during the pandemic.
There’s no one to blame but NCAA leadership for that.
Instead of one voice tying all of these conferences and football programs together, it’s been up to the conference commissioners to take the lead, with athletic directors, coaches and even a handful of players having more to say than the powers that be at the NCAA.
Instead of one medical expert or team of doctors gathering and sharing data that can be used coast to coast to help make and shape decisions about playing college sports this fall, the individual conferences and universities have had to rely on their own medical experts to corral enough information to make informed decisions. Or at least to delay making them.
There’s nothing wrong with using those resources. Many universities, especially at the Power Five level, have elite medical schools that are more than capable of providing quality, cutting-edge research and data about COVID-19.
But the opinions of the medical professionals who work and teach there should be used as enhancements and validations of a bigger voice, not as the driving force behind a bunch of individualized plans.
After all, this is new territory for all of us. And trying to tackle it alone is not the advisable path.
There is strength in numbers and a strong national plan about how to attack the fall sports seasons would have been golden.
Instead, we’ve been left with colleges and conferences operating on some sort of lost battleground, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 saying one thing, the SEC and ACC saying another and the Big 12 biding its time and trying to wait until the last possible minute to make a monumental decision that carries a heavy financial burden with it.
In a very strange way, that reality has painted the picture of a group of conferences at odds with one another.
Real or perceived, what good does that do?
I get the big picture here. We’re in the middle of some scary times in college athletics and no one — at any level — wants to be the one to make the decision that leads to huge financial loss or, worse, to serious medical issues or even death.
But does that fear justify doing nothing? Not when your job is to govern college athletics and to help guide your members through issues of all kinds, from rule changes and realignment to a 100-year pandemic and everything in between.
The most recent update we've heard from NCAA president Mark Emmert came last Tuesday, when he pushed his update on the fall sports situation to Wednesday and then said very little.
I'm not saying Emmert and the rest of the officials in Indianapolis aren't working hard behind the scenes to try to help figure some of this out. I'm sure they are. But they're certainly not leading in any way.
The NCAA has failed its members in this area and the worst part of all is that we’ll probably never get even a decent answer as to why.
I’m sure they have their reasons. And some of them might even be valid. But if they’re valid enough to keep NCAA leaders quietly standing on the sidelines during one of the most critical moments in college sports history, doesn’t that lead you to wonder what good the NCAA is anyway?
How much, if anything, can be learned about KU’s case from the NCAA penalties handed down to Oklahoma State on Friday
The first official punishment for a program tied up in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting was handed out on Friday, but it’s still too early to know if anything can be learned about KU’s case from the news.
Oklahoma State University’s men’s basketball program received a one-year postseason ban for the 2020-21 season and a series of other punishments for former OSU associate head coach Lamont Evans’ involvement in the scandal.
According to the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, Evans violated the ethical conduct rules when he accepted between $18,000 and $22,000 in bribes from two financial advisors who were interested Evans’ influence on student-athletes.
“The conduct at issue in this case was related to a broader scheme that involved money and influence at the intersection of college and professional basketball,” the committee said in its decision.
The committee classified the case as Level I-standard for the school and Level I-aggravated for Evans.
While OSU’s case was heard by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, KU’s case, at least initially, has been referred to the newly formed Independent Accountability Resolutions Process track. A source told the Journal-World last month that the COI referred the Kansas case to the IARP.
Unlike the Committee on Infractions, the IARP, which was created to tackle the most complex cases in college athletics, has no direct ties to the NCAA and also no appeals process. All rulings made by the IARP are final.
To date, only Memphis and North Carolina State have been accepted into the IARP path. However, neither case has reached its conclusion so the college athletics world has yet to see what the IARP process looks like from start to finish or what penalties, if any, come from it.
In early April, when expressing the school’s acceptance of the IARP path, reports indicate that NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson questioned whether the school “can receive an objective or fair hearing” from the Committee on Infractions, calling the IARP “the only remaining option.”
Just because KU’s case was referred to the IARP does not mean it will be heard there. A subcommittee within the IARP framework still has to formally accept KU’s case.
An NCAA spokesperson told the Journal-World last month that the NCAA would announce when a case is accepted by the IARP. There is no timeline for how long the IARP’s five-member Infractions Referral Committee has to decide whether to accept a case. And no announcement regarding the acceptance of KU’s case has been made.
The specifics of KU’s case differ from Oklahoma State’s, which also makes it difficult to know how much information can be gleaned from Friday’s ruling. While OSU's conduct involved an assistant coach taking money — and later being arrested and sentenced to three months in prison for it — the allegations against KU have to do with family members of former players taking money and, in turn, what role KU's apparel partner, Adidas, played in the process.
In addition, the NCAA allegations against Kansas go right to the top, with both a lack of institutional control violation and a head coach responsibility charge against KU coach Bill Self.
Even if KU's case winds up on the traditional infractions path instead of on the IARP track, Larry Parkinson, the COI chief hearing officer, told ESPN.com on Friday not to read too much into this one decision.
"Each case is unique," Parkinson said. "The panel bases its conclusions on the record before it, and as other cases come before either this panel or others panels we'll decide those cases based on the facts and circumstances of those individual cases. Having had only one and this being the first, I think time will tell whether other cases are similar or dissimilar."
The rest of Oklahoma State’s punishment included several penalties tied to recruiting as well as a 10-year show-cause order for Evans. That essentially means that any university that employs Evans during that time must restrict him from any athletic duties unless it can formally show cause for why the restrictions should not apply.
“Coaches are entrusted to look after the well-being and best interests of their student-athletes, including during the critical time when student-athletes are making decisions regarding their professional careers,” the committee said in its decision. “As the associate head coach admitted in his sentencing hearing, he abused this trust for his own personal gain. He sold access to student-athletes and used his position as a coach and mentor to steer them toward a career decision — retaining the financial advisors’ services — that would financially benefit him. In short, he put his interests ahead of theirs.”
Here’s the rest of the OSU punishment:
• Three years of probation.
• A total reduction of three men’s basketball scholarships from the 2020-21 through 2022-23 academic years.
OSU also self-imposed the following penalties, some of which came with additional requirements from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions:
• A $10,000 fine plus 1% of the men’s basketball budget.
• A reduction of men’s basketball official visits to 25 and then 18 during a two-year rolling period through 2021.
• A prohibition of men’s basketball unofficial visits for two weeks during the fall of 2020 and two weeks during the fall of 2021. The COI ruled that OSU also must prohibit unofficial visits for three additional weeks during the fall of 2020, 2021 and/or 2022.
• A prohibition of men’s basketball telephone recruiting for a one-week period during the 2020-21 academic year. The COI also ruled that OSU must prohibit telephone recruiting for six additional weeks during the probation period.
• A reduction in the number of men’s basketball recruiting person days by 12 during the 2019-20 academic year. The COI ruled that OSU also must reduce the number of recruiting person days by five during the 2020-21 academic year.
Shortly after the NCAA ruling was released, OSU's athletic department released a statement saying it was "stunned" by the severity of the penalties and that the school did not agree with them.
Diving deeper on the Commission on College Basketball’s recommendation to allow undrafted players to return to school
While Kansas coach Bill Self has been known for putting players in the NBA Draft lottery, there also have been a handful of ultra-talented Jayhawks who have gone undrafted after leaving KU.
Some of them, such as point guard Sherron Collins or power forward Perry Ellis, were seniors and had reached the end of the road on their college careers.
But a few of the undrafted Jayhawks have been underclassmen, who, because they kept their name in the draft and signed with an agent, were forced to start their professional careers elsewhere, outside of the glitz and glamour and guaranteed big-money contracts offered by the NBA.
While the immediate future of the NBA Draft now means nothing to those players, it could get quite interesting for players like them in the near future.
Although the overwhelming response to The Commission on College Basketball's recommendations to the NCAA to help clean up the sport was that the committee fell short and missed a great opportunity to do something meaningful, there were a couple of aspects of the 60-page report that could be deemed as good for the game if installed properly.
Sure, getting rid of the one-and-done rule or better transparency from shoe companies and agents would be good for the game, as well. But implementing those recommendations, at least the way the commission sees it, is a bit of a pipe dream and would be both costly and dependent on outside help.
One recommendation that appears to be entirely up to the NCAA, however, is the idea that undrafted players could return to college after the NBA Draft.
There are, of course, a couple of conditions here. 1. The player must remain academically eligible. 2. The player must return to the same school. 3. The player must request an evaluation from the NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee before entering the draft.
All of those are fairly standard practices in the first place, at least at Kansas. So maintaining them in the presence of this type of new rule would not be all that difficult.
The commission contends that “elite high school and college basketball players tend to misjudge their professional prospects,” and that better vetting of that on the front end would lead to better decisions being made. While that certainly seems true — according to NCAA research conducted in 2017, 59 percent of Division I basketball players believe that they will play professionally — having a safety net in place would be both good for the players and for the college game.
The only con I can see here is that it might make the recruiting game a little tougher for coaches whose rosters might be in limbo a little longer.
As it stands today, Udoka Azubuike has until May 30 to decide if he wants to stay in the draft or pull his name out. Under a new rule based off the recommendation, KU would have to wait at least three more weeks — until after the June 21 draft — to know Azubuike's status for sure.
But coaches adjust. And as long as the playing field is somewhat level, which, for the most part, would be the case with this rule in place, finding a way to adapt to this idea would not take that long or be all that difficult.
So enough about why the rule would be good or has been recommended. Let's look at some more practical examples of what this could mean.
By my count, and including this year, there have been just three (with the potential for that to increase to four or five) players in the Bill Self era at Kansas who have tried to turn pro and could have come back after not getting drafted.
Cliff Alexander in 2015. Wayne Selden in 2016. Brannen Greene in 2016. And Azubuike and Lagerald Vick this year, should Azubuike decide to stay in the draft and both players go undrafted.
Looking back, it seems unlikely that Alexander (eligibility), Selden (roster availability) or Greene (roster availability) would have been able to return had this rule been in place in the past, so it's not exactly as if KU has missed out. Besides, both Selden (still with Memphis) and Alexander (in the NBA and G League from 2015-18) did well for themselves despite not getting drafted.
There have been some who suggest that the rule should expand to include allowing players drafted in the second round to return to school, but that, in my opinion, is a tougher case to make. Getting drafted is getting drafted. And in an era when more than 200 players are eligible for the draft on an annual basis, being one of the lucky 60 to get selected seems like a pretty sweet reward. What they do with it from there is up to them.
As mentioned at the top, Self and his staff have done a fantastic job of developing KU players for the next level and Kansas is an enjoying a rich era of former Jayhawks playing big roles in the NBA. So it's not a huge surprise that this number is so small.
What might be more interesting to examine, however, is the number of former KU players in the Self era who would have tried their luck in the draft earlier if this recommended rule had been in place.
That list is much longer and makes it easy to see how (a) such a situation would have changed the look of several KU teams and (b) could have changed the pro prospects for a handful of former Jayhawks.
Before getting carried away and assuming that everyone would have tried to go early and just returned to school if they weren't drafted — which very well could be the case unless the rule is carefully crafted should it go into effect — let's take a quick look at former Jayhawks who had the best case for truly expecting to be drafted earlier than they were.
• Wayne Simien, 2004 – If Simien had left after his junior season (his first under Self), no one would have been shocked. The former KU All-American averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per game his junior year and easily would have drawn interest from the NBA. As it went, Simien returned for his senior season, averaged 20 and 11 and became a first-round draft pick of the Miami Heat (No. 29 overall) in the 2005 NBA Draft.
• Cole Aldrich, 2009 – After following up his NCAA Tournament coming-out party as a freshman with a strong sophomore season that produced 15 points and 11 rebounds per game averages, Aldrich, at 6-foot-11, with great instincts and good skills, easily would have been drafted — and almost certainly in the first round — had he elected to leave school after two seasons. Instead, he came back for a third year, teamed with Sherron Collins to produce a monster season in 2009-10 and became a lottery pick, going No. 11 overall, in the 2010 NBA Draft.
• Marcus and Markieff Morris, 2010 – The Twins were probably ready to roll after their second seasons at KU, with Marcus being more of a bona fide star and Markieff still coming into his own. Either way, both players would've been first-round picks and risked nothing by leaving. Instead, they returned for their junior seasons, helped lead KU to the Elite Eight and then became back-to-back lottery picks in the 2011 NBA Draft. It turned out to be a brilliant move and making the jump a year earlier would not have led to the same type of lucrative contracts they got by waiting.
• Jeff Withey, 2012 – Looking back, I still can't quite believe Withey did not leave after his junior year. After all, he was coming off of a monster NCAA Tournament in which he set the record for most blocks in a single tournament and had helped lead KU all the way to the title game. He would've been drafted. And he would not have been able to return for a senior season that saw him produce better numbers (14 and 9 vs. 9 and 6) and wind up drafted No. 39 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. I'm sure playing as more of the man helped his confidence and all-around game, but it probably had little impact on his draft stock.
• Carlton Bragg Jr., 2016 – This seems like one that would have happened. After a solid end to his freshman season, Bragg easily could have elected to try things out in the draft, knowing that his size, length and skills likely would have landed him a spot in the Top 60. That does not mean he would have done it, but the option would have been there had he known he could return to school if he went undrafted. Instead, he came back for his sophomore season and never turned into the player people believed he would become before transferring to Arizona State and again to New Mexico after leaving the KU program.
• Svi Mykhailiuk, 2017 – Of all of these, this one seems, to me, like the surest bet. It's no secret that Svi wanted to head to the NBA last Spring and was willing to make the jump if just one team had given him any kind of assurance that they would draft him. It never came, he pulled his name out of the draft and had a stellar senior season and is poised to get drafted this June. Clearly, he made the right move. But had this rule been in place, Svi would have been in the perfect position to take advantage of it. Unlike a lot of guys, who are hellbent on becoming first-rounders (for the obvious reason of guaranteed money), Svi likely would have been content as a second-round pick. So, for him, the rule would have been perfect. It's either get drafted in the Top 60 or return to school. No regrets about being picked 45th and being stuck when you hoped and thought you were a first-rounder.
• Udoka Azubuike, 2018 – If this rule were in place today, I don't think there's any doubt that Azubuike would declare and see what happens. Knowing he could return to KU if undrafted would be a great fall-back plan, but this guy, at least to me, seems like someone who wants to make the jump and, like Svi a year ago, is not all that worried about whether he's a first-round or second-round pick. Being in the Top 60 would be good enough and he'd be OK moving forward from there. Since the recommended rule is not in place, however, Azubuike needs some kind of assurance from an NBA team that he will be drafted. Otherwise, he will likely elect to return to KU for another season and see what happens after another year under Self and Andrea Hudy and as the focal point for a talented KU team. It's a win-win in many ways, but the recommendation would make it a much less stressful scenario for the big fella.
That's just a short list of the guys who I deem most likely to have tried to go earlier had this proposed rule change been in place during their days.
Are there others? No doubt. Mario Chalmers might have tried to go after his sophomore year when both Julian Wright and Brandon Rush (pre-injury) were headed down that road themselves. Sherron Collins might have given it a hard look after his junior season. Even Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham might have considered it after Year 3 instead of coming back for Year 4. But I don't think any of those guys — or any others you can think of — would have had as strong of a case as the ones mentioned above.
Regardless of what would have been, what's important from here on out is what will be. And while the CCB's recommendations in many ways had a fair amount of holes in them, this one seems like something that would be fairly easy to implement and a move that everyone can get behind.
Early Wednesday morning, inside a ballroom in Indianapolis, Condoleeza Rice and the rest of The Commission on College Basketball sat at the front of the room and unveiled their recommendations for how to clean up the mess that has made its way to the forefront of college basketball.
After first explaining the how and why of reaching their conclusions, Rice and company listed off the specific recommendations and kicked things off with a doozy — getting rid the one-and-done rule.
Doing that, of course, is up to the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, not the NCAA or a special committee designed to get answers. And it does not appear that the NBA is quite ready to give them.
While the commission's report was the result of nearly seven months of hard work and investigation, the NBA's reaction came in roughly five hours. Just after 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski released a story citing sources that said the NBA and NBPA had no plans to lower the age requirement before the 2020 draft.
That would mean two more full draft classes would have to operate under the current rules, which, according to Wojnarowksi, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts have discussed in the past. Wojnarowski wrote: "Silver and Roberts have both expressed a desire to change the rule, but it remains to be seen how the process of negotiating a rule change between the league and players will unfold."
Rice and the college basketball commission said Wednesday that their recommendation was for something to change by the start of next basketball season. If it hasn't, Rice said, the committee would be prepared to reconvene and examine a number of possible alternatives that range from ruling freshmen to be ineligible or locking in scholarships for three or four years.
The NBA does allow high school players to make the jump directly to the ever-improving and expanding G League without waiting and a couple of players, including former Syracuse commitment and McDonald's All-American, Darius Bazley, in this year's class already are planning to take advantage of that rule.
Whether there's more of that ahead depends almost entirely on how firm the NBA is in his stance about no changes before 2020 and college basketball's reaction to it.
According to Wojnarowksi's article, the NBA has a record 236 early-entry candidates for the 2018 NBA Draft, which includes 181 NCAA and 81 international players, which is a 30 percent increase on the 2017 draft.
Very little public information has been released about the situation surrounding Kansas University freshman forward Cliff Alexander, who sat out of Saturday's 69-64 victory over Texas at Allen Fieldhouse after the NCAA made KU officials aware of an eligibility concern surrounding Alexander.
Following Saturday's game, KU coach Bill Self admitted to having little knowledge about the situation — though it seems highly likely that Self has learned a ton more in the 24 hours since first hearing about it — but Self also made it clear that he did not believe the issue had anything to do with something the school, the coaches or the basketball program had done wrong.
While such a stance undoubtedly was refreshing for KU fans to hear, it did not erase the fact that Alexander is out indefinitely and there's no telling at this point when or even if he might return.
Sunday morning, SI.com's Brian Hamilton got in touch with the attorney helping Alexander work through the situation, Washington D.C.-based Arthur McAfee, and even McAfee was unable to shed much light on any kind of time frame.
“I can’t handicap it for you, it wouldn’t be fair to either side to do so,” McAfee told Hamilton. “Our goal is to make sure there is clarity with whatever issue [the NCAA] may have. We’re always confident that whatever information [it is] looking for is in favor of Cliff. These things take time to develop. [It has] procedures [it] must follow, and I think there’s an attempt to do it fairly quickly. We will see here in short order, I hope.”
These things certainly are not new to college athletics or college basketball or even KU, but given the fact that this one has popped up in March, with just two games remaining in the regular season, one can't help but wonder if things can and will be resolved in time for Alexander to return to the Jayhawks' lineup this season.
Despite being unable to predict how long the ordeal would last or how long Alexander would be sidelined, McAfee seemed confident that things would move quickly one way or the other.
“I would assume that [the NCAA] understands the pressures of the current basketball season,” McAfee told Hamilton, “and I’m sure [it] will try to do [its] job in a thorough fashion, to cause the least amount of harm to Cliff and the university.”
Whenever these situations arise, information can be tough to come by because everyone involved typically wants to say as little as possible as to not interfere with the process. Self said following Saturday's game that Alexander would be able to practice while things played out, but until more is known or things are resolved, that's likely all Alexander will be able to do and we probably won't be hearing from him until KU knows his status for the rest of the season.
The good news, from a Kansas perspective, is that the university acted fast in sitting Alexander and has made it clear that it is 100 percent willing to cooperate with whatever the NCAA needs. It certainly would be foolish for them not to do so, but such swift action often is looked upon favorably by the NCAA.
Stay logged on to KUsports.com for any information we or others are able to learn about the Alexander situation.