NCAA Basketball Task Force Takes Aim at NBA, Sneaker Brands

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(Bloomberg) -- After six months of investigation spurred by a sweeping federal probe, the independent Commission on College Basketball announced its recommendations for fixing the “crisis in college basketball.” But the biggest suggestions focused largely on organizations outside of the NCAA.

The 60-page report, released Wednesday, opens with a plea to the National Basketball Association and its players union to end the ‘one-and-done’ policy and once again allow players to go straight from high school to the pros. It also called for help and financial transparency from shoe companies like Adidas and Nike, which dominate the youth basketball scene.

The NBA and its players union said they will continue to evaluate their policies on eligibility. Adidas, in a statement, said it welcomed the recommendations and would continue to work with the NCAA. Nike didn’t return a request for comment.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association wasn’t held blameless. Condoleezza Rice, who chaired the committee, said Tuesday that the governing body “has often failed to carry out its responsibility to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body.”

The report and its recommendations illustrate how deeply entangled the college basketball economy is, with every stakeholder acting in its own interests. Universities are eager to protect the money and publicity that comes from top-flight college basketball programs. The NBA needs college to be a training ground. And sneaker companies want access to players at the earliest possible moment.

All parties agree the current system is deeply flawed, but there’s little consensus as to a way forward. “Talking to the stakeholders was, at times, like watching a circular firing squad,” Rice said. “The problem, the issue, and ultimately the fault, was always that of someone else.”

The task force made a handful of other recommendations, including permitting athletes to enter the NBA Draft and retain collegiate eligibility if they aren’t selected, and a framework for regulated contact between college athletes and agents. The group also suggested stricter NCAA punishment for violations, independent investigative units, and the inclusion of public members on the NCAA board.

The committee was formed in October, two weeks after federal prosecutors announced the result of a three-year investigation into bribery surrounding college basketball programs, high school athletes, advisers and Adidas. In all, nine schools have been mentioned and 10 people were charged.

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