NCAA will allow undrafted basketball players to return to their schools, 'elite' players to have agents

Some of the NCAA’s long-standing restrictions that have kept a firm line between amateur and professional athletes are no more.

After an FBI investigation found in September that several Division I college basketball coaches were implicated in recruiting bribery, the NCAA wanted to change up some rules to safeguard themselves from ever having to clean up this mess again.

Among the changes is the reversal of a rule that has long separated amateur from pro athletes.

Pending approval by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association, high school basketball players deemed “elite” by USA Basketball are allowed to hire an agent as soon as July 1 of their senior year. College players will also be allowed representation as soon as their seasons end if they request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

In maybe the most notable correction to the recruiting scandals, those agents will have the freedom to pay for meals and transportation for both players and their families, as long as those expenses are related to the agent selection process, and meals, transportation and lodging for meetings with an agent or pro team.

All player-agent relationships, however, must be in writing, disclosed to the NCAA and ended when the player comes back to school.

In the past, if a college basketball player declared for the draft, they had until 10 days after the draft combine to return to school.

Now, players can go through the draft and have the ability to return to school if they go undrafted, as long as they inform the school’s athletic director by 5 p.m. the Monday after the draft. Say Maryland’s Kevin Huerter, for example, didn’t get drafted in the first two rounds — he’d be able to play for the Terps again.

“This change is effective if/when the NBA and NBPA make an expected rule change, which would make undrafted student-athletes who return to college after the draft ineligible for the NBA until the end of the next college basketball season,” the NCAA wrote.

Division I schools are now also bound to pay for tuition, fees and books for those players who left school and later returned to earn their degree, provided the player was on scholarship, fewer than 10 years have passed since leaving school and the player had been enrolled in the school for at least two years.

The NCAA will also limit the kinds of “basketball-related events” high school athletes can go to, allowing only ones that the NCAA can vet. On the other hand, those players will be allowed to take more official visits to campuses, which the schools will pay for.

If coaches and staff are making any money off an outside company — like an “apparel company” — they will have to report that to their schools, too. The NCAA also suggested that there will be an agreement coming out of talks with apparel companies for “accountability and transparency regarding their involvement in youth basketball.”

University presidents and chancellors will be held “personally accountable” for any rule-breaking by their athletic departments. The new rules also allow for heavier punishments, like longer head coach suspensions and stronger fines.

Missing in the NCAA’s package of rule changes is anything to do with pay for players, a wish from many in the college sports community and the inspiration for a multitude of opinion pieces over the years.

However, the NCAA shored up its stance against paying players earlier in the year. President Mark Emmert claimed in a March video that if male basketball and football players were to receive paychecks, it would spark the end of other athletic programs.

kfominykh@baltsun.com

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