Every July, Las Vegas becomes the epicenter of elite youth basketball. Hundreds of top-level AAU teams descend upon Sin City during the summer evaluation windows for college coaches, playing games at dozens of sites across the city.
The Commission on College Basketball would like the NCAA to control some of the chaos.
In its 60-page report released Wednesday, the commission proposed the NCAA run its own summer recruiting events for prospects and take a more stringent approach to certifying what it called non-scholastic basketball events.
The independent commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recommended the NCAA require more financial transparency by event operators, including benefits provided to participants and their families along with the source of the provisions. The commission also proposed requiring non-scholastic events to have an educational component and that the NCAA ban coaches from attending unsanctioned events – a move that would take away a key draw for recruits who play specifically to be seen.
The proposed measures are designed to address corruption issues following a federal investigation alleging hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to influence recruits’ choices of schools, agents and financial advisers. Ten people were arrested in September, including four assistant coaches, in the investigation based in New York.
“Currently, non-scholastic basketball is an ungoverned space with coaches, players and their families, agents and sponsors exchanging money and goods in the hope of future benefits and without accountability,” the commission’s report said. “Of particular importance to the Commission are the cases in which non-scholastic basketball event operators and coaches seek benefits from colleges and college coaches in exchange for influencing their players’ college choices.”
But AAU teams and event organizers may feel left out if the proposal goes through, and may not adhere to the certification process.
“It sounds like an effort to push AAU basketball out of the market, push summer basketball out of the market,” said Don Jackson, an Alabama-based attorney who has worked on numerous eligibility cases. “Well I don’t see that happening with 7-on-7 football, I don’t see that happening with travel baseball, I don’t see that happening with club soccer and club lacrosse. I don’t see that happening with junior hockey. So why is basketball that different?”
WHY IT COULD WORK: The certification process would allow the NCAA to keep a closer eye on the operations of AAU teams and coaches, who often hold more sway with players than high school coaches. Right now, the NCAA has no real way to know where the AAU teams get their money and how it’s spent. The risk of being decertified could curb some backroom deals involving recruits. The commission also recommended the NCAA partner with USA Basketball and the NBA to create new resources and programs for youth basketball development, which could help prevent corruption.
WHY IT WOULDN’T WORK: The AAU teams may not want to disclose their finances to the NCAA or be forced to add an educational element to their programs. They’ve operated autonomously for years and likely won’t want to change, could which present problems for the NCAA in gaining widespread compliance.
WHY IT’S KEY TO THE SCANDAL: Most of the top-level AAU teams have strong ties to apparel companies, creating an easier path for anyone wanting to funnel money to influence recruits. According to the FBI investigation, some shady deals with recruits happened in Las Vegas during the evaluation periods, so having more oversight on the AAU teams and the events might prevent more corruption.
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.
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