We knew the FBI Investigation into college basketball would lead to changes, but when left to the NCAA to make those changes, what we’re going to get isn’t very good. According to Jeff Goodman, the coaches association committee is going to recommend some swift changes to summer recruiting.
“The big thing here, according to sources, that’s likely to happen, is that AAU basketball is no more. The coaches wouldn’t be able to go out in July to these shoe sponsored events anymore. That would be the big change if these recommendations come to fruition.”
Restricting coaches from going to shoe sponsored events is a curious decision. I get the NCAA wanting to control camps for prospects because that’s a revenue stream, but shoe companies are a huge part of propping up the expenses associated with college basketball. Does the NCAA think that Nike and Adidas are going to just shrug their shoulders and sit on the sidelines? I think they better prepare for something else entirely.
If you follow college football recruiting, you’re probably aware of the rise of IMG Academy. From the complaints of Texas high school coaches, to hosting Jim Harbaugh’s Spring Break, IMG has been in the news a lot the last few years. Their academy has become a place for high school athletes to go where the focus is on athletic and academic preparation for college.
So what if the shoe companies take the IMG model and implement themselves across the s the country? There is already some precedent for this when you look at the Findlay Prep team in Nevada. The shoe companies can work with online high school academic programs to provide the required courses while sending the team(s) across the country playing other similar programs.
Not only would this let the shoe companies continue to cultivate relationships with the top prep talent, but by sponsoring these academies they could sell the broadcast rights to these games. Players could see the benefit of the exposure provided by the companies, and of course NBA players could be used in the recruitment and development of the prep players.
As Andy pointed out to me in our TNIAAM Slack conversation, there’s also the possibility that NBA teams could step in and fill the void by opening versions of the academies pro soccer teams like D.C. United have started here in the U.S.
With high school players likely to be available for the NBA Draft in a couple of years, we could see the NBA take advantage of stricter college recruiting rules to begin their own developmental programs. Basketball players could start at these academies, advance to G League teams, and then the Association. Like soccer, the process could vary based upon the individual so a younger player like LeBron James once was might jump right to the NBA, while another player might find themselves working their way up and never progressing beyond the G League.
In my opinion, this is typical NCAA overreaction to a problem. Instead of using a common-sense solution, the administrators turn to the default of wanting more control. Yes, there are issues with college basketball recruiting, but the problem isn’t going to go away by trying to eliminate all of the AAU programs. This proposal makes it seem like there are no problems with high school coaches, or that restricting access will stop players from taking money for going to specific programs.
I’m sure some coaches think this will hurt the big boys more than the mid-majors, but do those programs have the resources to truly compete when it comes to attracting the best talent? It’s also likely to impact many student-athletes who get the opportunity in the current system to prove they can hang with players from bigger cities and bigger programs.
We don’t know how many of the players the Syracuse Orange have found through the Albany City Rocks would have actually come to Syracuse, or been prepared to contribute, without the exposure they received playing against better competition in AAU competition. Without that exposure, I feel very confident that these players will end up in more prep programs rather than staying at their high schools. In the end, college basketball will suffer because the alternatives will feed more players to places other than the NCAA.