INDIANAPOLIS – NCAA President Mark Emmert intends to act swiftly and decisively to clean up college basketball.
When it happens, he expects everyone in the governing body to jump on board.
With an independent commission looking into alleged corruption in the sport, Emmert used his annual state of the association speech Thursday to ask everyone in attendance to help him turn the commission’s recommendations into actual rules by the start of next season.
“They (the commission) are going to bring forth a report in April and we have to act on it,” he said just a few blocks away from the governing body’s headquarters in Indianapolis. “We’ve got to hear what they have to say, we have to digest it and we have to act. We have to have those changes in place by tip-off of next year.”
If the transition actually happens, it would be a vast departure from the NCAA’s typically glacial pace.
Emmert and others have talked about speeding up the process before. This time sounds different.
G.P. “Bud” Peterson, the board’s chairman and president of Georgia Tech, has already prepped his committee and the Division I Council to move quickly after the commission issues its report on April 25. The Council will then be asked to present formal proposals that will be voted on at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting in early August.
Those approved would likely take effect before season openers now tabbed for Nov. 6 after the Council voted Wednesday to move up the start date by three days.
“We have spent a considerable amount of time walking through that (plan) this week because it is a little unusual,” Peterson said.
The comments come as an FBI investigation into alleged corruption continues.
Ten men – including a top Adidas executive and four college assistant coaches – were charged in September with using hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to steer players to certain schools.
“Right now, there are some things we just have to get on with. We have to say, ‘Yep, we’re going to deal with it,’” Emmert said. “What we see with that FBI investigation is Exhibit A. A coach allegedly takes a bribe to steer a young man to a financial adviser who is going to bilk him out of money. It’s disgusting. It’s wrong. We know it’s not widespread like people assumed it was. But when we don’t respond appropriately, it makes everyone’s jobs harder.
“People don’t want words. They want to see actions.”
There’s no indication yet of what changes are under consideration.
Emmert outlined areas the committee is looking into: the relationships with professional basketball, shoe companies and agents, as well as summer basketball and enforcement.
Since former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was named chairwoman of the Commission On Basketball in mid-October, Emmert said the 14-member committee has been meeting at least monthly, usually by telephone. But neither he nor Peterson has been briefed by the committee on what it has found.
Emmert acknowledged the commission has interviewed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, members of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and even NCAA staff members. The committee is also expected to interview summer league and AAU basketball officials.
In the meantime, the Board of Governors isn’t waiting around.
On Thursday, it approved setting aside $10 million in reserves to help schools implement this year’s changes and $2.5 million annually beginning in 2019-20 for any additional new rules.
“I don’t know what the cost is going to be, but I do know that there’s going to be a cost,” Peterson said.
Wading through the NCAA’s usual legislative process also would come with a cost: a tainted reputation.
Emmert even alluded to it during his prepared remarks, noting that polls showed continuing declines in the trust of institutions ranging from Congress to the media to higher education and even college sports.
So, he told the crowd, the NCAA can’t waste any more time.
“The dilemma for us, here, as we try to deal with the challenges and issues of college sports are that we tend to feel like we’re being picked on or someone’s taking shots at us or it’s not us, it’s that other school,” Emmert said. “It’s a little too convenient. It’s a little too easy. The reality is some of the criticism is justified. Some of the criticism has a kernel of truth in it even if we don’t like it. And we have to look that straight in the eye.”