Right around this time last year I released my list of the five things that will fix basketball and the NCAA. Now that the brackets are set and March Madness is about to ensue, I have updated my thoughts for 2016.
Develop academic programs that give student-athletes a chance.
Come up with programs at the schools that kids can actually finish. A lot of kids (not all) that play basketball at the Division-I level shouldn’t be expected to get through the rigors of a standard academic schedule.
Think about it: they’ve spent their entire life training to be a basketball player. Instead of requiring them to take courses that they have absolutely no interest in or even a chance at completing, why not develop curriculum that will allow them to be a coach? Does a kid really have time to complete a standard curriculum when they have the majority of their day committed to being an athlete?
Let’s be real, most college athletes out there (not just in basketball) probably aren’t geniuses that are going to go pre-med, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of passing a college course. Don’t dummy it down, but customize it. Come up with something interesting that matches up to their needs instead of pretending that the 24/7 grind for a student athlete doesn’t exist.
How about a personal finance class for the kids that have a shot to do it professionally? Those kids already make enough money for their respective schools, a specialized class just for them won’t hurt.
Don’t let kids go one-and-done.
Going to need some help from the NBA on this one, but if a kid doesn’t want to go to college, let the NBA deal with it. In reality, there’s only a handful of athletes that will make the jump from high school to the league in any given year anyway.
Once you go to college, stay three years
Taking this from the college baseball model, once kids decide to go to college and not direct to the professional ranks out of high school, make them stay in college. Give them a longer set time to develop as players and as human beings.
This will have many programs playing a better brand of basketball because there will be less of an emphasis for coaches on recruiting high profile players that will inevitably leave early and more of an emphasis on coaching basketball.
Strengthen the NBADL
Let the NBA babysit the kids that don’t want to go to school. I know Mark Cuban has made some interesting suggestions about what the NBA could do to fix the D-League. Maybe people should listen.
I have some more suggestions. Pay the players in the D-League more competitively. You want the league to gain more respect? Respect the players by compensating them to the point where they don’t feel that the grass is greener in Europe.
Another way to have more respect for the D-League? Doubleheaders. Why not have the Westchester Knicks play before a Sunday matinee at The Garden?
Emphasize the regular season
Back to college. I cannot believe that the Ivy League is adding a conference tournament. They were supposed to be the smart ones!
Conference tournaments take away the meaning of the regular season. They make games less competitive…and the players themselves are less excited about them.
Get rid of conference tournaments. Add those 2-4 games back into the regular season schedule and create more balance for conference play. The nature of basketball dictates that every team within a single conference should be able to face each other twice. That will give the NCAA selection committee a better idea of who is more suited for the Big Dance.
What changes would YOU make to the NCAA and basketball as a whole?