Quite before you were ready to deal with it, we’ve stumbled upon a new season that will consume the American consciousness for an extended period of time.
You thought I was talking about Christmas season? Oh, no, secret Santa, I’m talking about college basketball season, that mad March to April’s national championship games, with seemingly a million contests in between.
A lot has happened in college hoops since North Carolina and South Carolina captured the respective men’s and women’s crowns in April, and not a lot of it was good.
The Tar Heels, for instance, appeared to beat a rap that had hung over the entire athletic program for seven years when the NCAA said it would not pursue an investigation into allegations of extended academic fraud.
Four programs – Arizona, Auburn, Louisville and Southern California – were rocked by an FBI probe into alleged payments to potential recruits funneled through assistant coaches from a shoe company executive.
And schools and players were harmed by questionable NCAA rulings, one that denied a North Carolina State freshman a chance to play this season after the coach he signed to play for at Ohio State was fired.
The second strange edict from Indianapolis declared a Houston men’s basketball player ineligible for a game because he played in a church rec league game in the offseason.
NCAA officials even forced the player, senior Rob Gray, to pay back the $5 entry fee that someone put up for him to play in the league.
While the young men and women who play college basketball are fine, the foundation of the game is a mess and needs to be cleaned up.
NCAA President Mark Emmert has heard the cries for change and acted accordingly, taking the bold step that people in power take when the organization surrounding them begins to crumble.
He formed a commission.
Specifically, Emmert gathered together a panel with such basketball luminaries as Hall of Fame center David Robinson and former Duke great Grant Hill.
The commission also includes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and General Martin Dempsey, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I don’t know about you, but the inclusion of Dempsey and Rice does not inspire great confidence in what this commission will offer.
And Emmert’s blanket declaration that the NCAA’s model of amateurism is not up for discussion further leads me to believe that nothing of substance, of reality, will come of this.
From this vantage point, the NCAA must reconsider its reaction to the NBA’s rule that players cannot join the league until one year after their high school graduation.
The NCAA has declared that players who sign with an agent immediately forfeit all remaining eligibility, a stance that is farcical.
A player ought to be able to test the potential waters to see if a professional career is in the offing and be able to come back to college if the pro game isn’t a good fit.
Mark Emmert and his NCAA elves have a chance to make college basketball better before it becomes irrelevant. If they don’t, they’ll deserve a lot more than a lump of coal in their stockings.
And that’s how I see it for this week.