If Baltimore City schools and Basketball Academy officials have their way, the popular event will return to a college campus next year.
Because of NCAA regulations banning "nonscholastic" high school basketball events from Division I college campuses, this week's 16th Annual Basketball Academy had to be moved from Coppin State to Lake Clifton. Basketball Academy officials, however, believe their event is a scholastic event.
"I feel very confident we'll be back on a college campus," said Bob Wade, coordinator of athletics for the Baltimore City Public Schools. "Whatever we have to do, we're going to do it to meet the criteria."
The rule, adopted by the NCAA in April for men's basketball and this month for women's basketball, states: "An institution … shall not host, sponsor or conduct a nonscholastic basketball practice or competition in which [men's/women's] basketball prospective student-athletes participate on its campus or at an off-campus facility regularly used by the institution for practice and/or competition by any of the institution's sports programs."
The person or organization running the event must be a scholastic entity, explained Christopher Radford, associate director of public and media relations for the NCAA in an email. Just because all the teams involved are high school teams doesn't make it a scholastic event.
The rule, which has also forced tournaments out of Kentucky's Rupp Arena and Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium this winter, was adopted to stop nonscholastic organizations from possibly colluding with Division I programs to stage such events, giving the host school a recruiting advantage with participating athletes.
"The rule is designed to prevent institutions from hosting these events to bringing elite prospects to campus or to facilities used by institutions to circumvent recruiting rules," Radford said.
Although the Baltimore City schools are involved in running the event and Wade is a co-chairman, there are two other partners — the Baltimore Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the 100 Black Men of Maryland. That's where the problem lies, according to Wade.
"[The NCAA doesn't] feel that some of the helping partners like Delta Sigma Theta and the100 Black Men of Maryland that volunteer their time and services are scholastic entities, even though their mission statements are geared to community service and helping our youth," Wade said.
After Coppin officials told them Monday the university could not host the event, Academy officials had to scramble to find an alternate site. It was initially moved to Morgan State, but Morgan could not host either.
The games were ultimately moved to Lake Clifton, which could easily accommodate all 20 games in its two gyms. However, some fans had to be turned away from the biggest boys games because there wasn't enough room. Anyone who bought tickets in advance got in.
The late notice upset Academy officials, but Coppin State’s Dwayne Henry, assistant athletic director for compliance, said the university was asking the NCAA to reconsider allowing them to host.
State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a founding board member of the Basketball Academy, was one of many involved who said they didn't understand why Coppin waited so long when the rule had been in effect for nearly nine months.
"Had they told us in April or May, we could have prepared documents that would clearly indicate that we were in compliance with the rule," McFadden said, "but because all of this happened so late [the NCAA] had to make a quick decision based on the limited information they were provided."
The Basketball Academy includes an educational component that all participating student-athletes must attend. Classes include SAT prep, financial literacy, gang awareness and elite sports marketing.
Wade's brainchild, the Academy originated as a counter to past tournaments such as the Charm City Classic run by promoters who made a profit but gave nothing back. The Basketball Academy is non-profit organization, and the impetus behind the program was to get student-athletes on a college campus during the day and show them there's more to life than basketball.
"It seems like we're caught right in the middle of it," Wade said. "They're trying to get control of AAU and the 7-on-7, and wholesome activities like the Academy get caught up in this new legislation. We just have to put our heads together and see how we can meet these criteria of this new bylaw. In our opinion, we are a sanctioned scholastic event."