WASHINGTON — With the sport enmeshed in a widespread FBI investigation into corruption and its governing body disparaged as toothless, an NCAA official pledged Monday that this summer his organization will adopt reforms to "profoundly alter the college basketball landscape."
"We can't change the culture overnight … but accountability will be increased," Don Remy, the NCAA's chief legal officer, told a meeting here of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a group that emphasizes the educational aspects of college sports. "This is not the NCAA as usual."
Remy's comments came on a day when the Knight Commission urged a radical overhaul of the lucrative sport's rules, everything from adding independent members to NCAA governing boards to eliminating the NBA's "One-and-Done" rule to re-imagining the relationships players establish with agents, advisers and shoe companies.
To do that and to restore the public's trust in the body that has regulated college sports for more than a century, commission co-chair Arne Duncan said, the NCAA must embrace sweeping changes.
"It's an open question if the NCAA can restore public confidence in its ability to be stewards of big-money college sports," said Duncan, the commission's co-chair and a former U.S. Secretary of Education.
Much of the change the Knight Commission supported was spelled out in a recent report by the NCAA Commission on College Basketball, a special panel headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Though critics complained its proposed remedies were too little too late, Rice's panel attempted to address some of the most serious issues the game faces: Power conferences made virtually ungovernable by TV billions; high-paid coaches who have abandoned education; the influence of unregulated advisers on high-school talent; the impact of shoe-company money. But at least two who addressed the Knight Commission Monday suggested that without a provision to compensate athletes, any new regulations would fail.
Kylia Carter, whose son, Wendell, played at Duke and figures to be an NBA lottery pick, compared the current system to slavery and prison.
"The laborers are the only people not being compensated for the work they do, while those in charge receive mighty compensation," she said. "The only two systems where I've known that to be in place are slavery and the prison system."
Carter was part of a six-member panel that also included Jay Bilas, the ESPN analyst and former Duke star; and St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli.
"Money and education are not mutually exclusive," said Bilas, a vocal advocate of pay-for-play. "[Unless players are paid,] these reforms won't work and we'll be here in the future with another package of reforms."
Martelli, who backed some of the proposals that allowed coaches to spend more time with players, differed with his two colleagues.
"When they talk about all this money, they're really talking about 85 schools," Martelli said afterward. "Schools like Villanova, even with all their successes, and schools like St. Joseph's would be left on the outside looking in. I just don't know how you run it as a business."
Most of the Rice Commission's recommendations will be turned into proposals and presented to the NCAA Convention in August.
"A lot of people have a lot of work to do," Martelli said. "But I'm optimistic that we're looking at a brighter day for our sport."