High-level hoop coaches, Chris Holtmann and Brad Brownell, offer their thoughts on the new NCAA rules

Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann speaks to the media at his introductory press conference at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus earlier in his career. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Clemson men's basketball coach Brad Brownell directs his team during the first half of a game against Boston College in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in New York this spring. (By The Associated Press)

College athletics – most notably the sport of basketball – underwent their most sweeping alterations in some time Wednesday with the announcement by the NCAA’s Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors of several rule changes in regards to recruiting, as well as student-athlete rights.

The implementation of these changes was made in an effort to clean up unethical behavior on the part of many involved in the sport at varying levels and one veteran coach told News-Sentinel.com that the changes were “significant.”

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann and his counterpart at Clemson, Brad Brownell, each spoke with News-Sentinel.com regarding the changes and here is a breakdown of some of those and their thoughts on why they were necessary and what the future of the sport may hold.

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE

What you need to know:

• As soon as the season ends for a college or high school men’s basketball player with remaining eligibility, he can be represented by an NCAA-certified agent. That agreement must be in writing and filed with the university/high school and the NCAA.

• If the player wants to go through the process of being evaluated and eligible for the upcoming NBA Draft, he must file with the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

• If the player participates in the NBA Draft Combine, then he may remain eligible for the Draft without losing future college eligibility. If he does not participate in the Combine, he needs to, at that time, stay eligible for the Draft and forfeits his eligibility or return to school.

• If the player is not selected in the Draft, he can elect to return to school following the Draft.

“That is a significant change,” Brownell said of the last point, “because it will keep kids in the draft a little bit longer.”

Of the 69 participants in the 2018 NBA Draft Combine, 40 were ultimately selected; seven players with eligibility remaining chose to stay in the Draft, but weren’t picked, thus forfeiting their future eligibility; while 10 others elected to return to their schools in May.

Moving forward, waiting until May now will cause a coach and his program to wait until late June for such decisions in some cases.

This past May, Indiana forward Juwan Morgan was not invited to the Combine, while Purdue guard Carsen Edwards was. Ultimately, both returned to school for the 2018-19 season.

“You are almost stuck holding a scholarship anyway, as we are,” Brownell said. “It’s hard to make moves because you are waiting so long as it is.”

Holtmann didn’t have an issue with the new process because he felt that it benefitted the student-athlete in their decision-making process.

“In a lot of cases,” Holtmann said, “the more information the better as long as it is sound feedback.”

KEEPING YOUR SCHOLARSHIP

What you need to know:

• As noted, any player that participates in the NBA Draft Combine, but is not selected in the Draft, can retain their eligibility if they choose to return to school. But that isn’t exactly black and white.

This rule is a tricky one for a coach because he will have to decide whether or not to hold a scholarship for the player until late June. By that time in the recruiting calendar, it is very difficult to fill a scholarship adequately.

Holtmann said such a decision will now be handled on a case-by-case basis with the new rule, but he knows what he would have done if it would have involved now-departed Ohio State star forward Keita Bates-Diop.

“If having Keita back is a possibility,” Holtmann said, “I’m not filling that scholarship.”

This past spring, Bates-Diop elected to remain in the NBA Draft after his participation in the Combine, though he could have returned to Columbus for one more season due to suffering an injury earlier in his career. He was selected in the second round of the Draft by Minnesota.

Holtmann made it clear that under the new rules if a future player similar to Bates-Diop doesn’t completely rule out returning, he would be patient before filling that player’s spot.

“For me,” Holtmann said, “I’m not giving up a chance to coach Keita Bates-Diop for another year because I’m feeling a rush to sign a kid in the spring.”

Not only waiting for the player’s decision will be “challenging,” as Brownell referred to it, but Holtmann said there will be instances in some programs where the coach communicates that he may not want the player to return and won’t hold the scholarship.

“What you will see in some cases,” Holtmann said, “for whatever reason, a coach may say ‘Maybe it’s best if you go do your thing and we’ll continue to build.'”

INVOLVING AN AGENT – IN HIGH SCHOOL

What you need to know:

• A high school athlete may elect to be represented by an agent as of July 1 following his junior year in high school if he has been deemed “an elite prospect” by USA Basketball.

• The agents must go through a certification process with the NCAA.

• College athletes can be represented by an agent as soon as their season is complete if they request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

• All agreements between the agent and athlete must be in writing and filed with the university/high school, as well as the NCAA.

• An agent can pay for meals and transportation for the athletes and their families if the expenses are related to the agent selection process. However, the following guidelines must be followed: the reimbursements are for costs accrued within the vicinity of where the athlete lives and/or attends school, as well as the athlete, will not miss any school for such meetings.

• An agent can also pay such expenses that are associated with meetings between the athlete and the agent or a pro organization.

• All representation agreements cease at the start of a school year.

On the surface, this sounds very seedy, to say the least. A cynic will envision the agent wanting to “meet” with the player in exotic locales as an enticement to sign with that agency. But Holtmann is more concerned with the NCAA ensuring that the representation is legitimate.

“I think that there is going to be a pool of agents that I think everybody will have confidence in,” Holtmann said. “That will provide good feedback, good information that is in the best interest of the kid.

“I see benefits in this. The vetting process, in terms of who those agents are, is probably the most important thing.”

THE FLIGHT IS FREE

What you need to know:

• High school athletes can take as many as 15 “official” visits (those campus visits in which the university covers the costs involved) during their athletic careers. Five of those visits can occur between August 1 following their sophomore year and the culmination of their junior year; five more between the end of their junior year and Oct. 15 following graduation; and lastly, and this would apply to college transfers and junior college students, five more from Oct. 15 following high school graduation and the end of their eligibility.

• An athlete may only visit a specific school “officially” one time per year.

• Universities may host 28 “official visits in a rolling, two-year period.

• “Unofficial” visits (those in which the athlete covers the cost) cannot occur before August 1 of their sophomore year.

This very well may be one of those policies that sound good on paper until it is put into practice, according to Holtmann.

“It is a lot of work,” Holtmann said of conducting an “official” visit. “Anyone who has ever been around an official visit, been on an official visit, or hosted an official visit understands that it is hours and hours of planning. It is a lot of money and it is 48 hours of pretty intense, wall-to-wall work.”

And now Holtmann and Brownell may have to do so for a prospect twice.

The genesis of this rule was to manage the on-going violations of the rule (an athlete currently can only take five official visits in his career) that now occur and both Holtmann and Brownell explained the problematic issue.

“Listen,” Holtmann said, “the reason why this was done, and we all know why this was put in place, was because I think people have questioned for years how are these unofficial visits happening all over the country?”

Both coaches cited that prospects are often (supposedly) spending a great deal of money (on travel, meals, etc.) making “unofficial” visits long distances from home and Holtmann, Brownell, and many other coaches find that peculiar, to say the least.

“It’s a significant change and I understand why it was done,” Brownell said. “It was done because there are folks that have been making long distance, unofficial visits as juniors and people are wondering how those got paid for.”

The unintended consequence of this rule, however, according to Brownell, is that the utilization of an “official” visit will now become a recruiting tool.

If University A is offering an “official” visit to a prospect, then University B better do the same or it will lag behind in showing the athlete attention.

“This (rule) was one that I wasn’t all that excited about,” Brownell lamented. “Just because there are going to be a lot more folks just taking visits now to take visits.”

Especially during the fall to places like Ohio State and Clemson.

Young athletes know that there are few more attractive options for a visit than to Clemson or Columbus for a high-level football game, but both Brownell and Holtmann are also parents, so don’t think that they aren’t aware of what is going on.

“We already (have to screen prospects) on unofficial visits,” Holtmann said. “We try to vet that to a certain degree. Our rule of thumb for official visits has always been ‘Is he approaching or in the decision-making mode?’ That has always been our criteria as to whether or not we’re going to bring you in on an official visit.”

MORE ON THE DOCKET

There were a handful of other rules that were voted on that will have more of a “behind the scenes” impact on the coaches and athletes and here are some of those:

• Schools will now have to pay for returning athletes (that turned pro early) under following circumstances: The athlete was on scholarship, less than a decade has passed since he competed for the university, the player was in school for at least two years, AND they have exhausted all other financial aid options.

• The NCAA will establish a fund to assist schools that can’t afford to help their former athletes

• Off-season competitions will now be certified by NCAA

• A four-day recruiting period in April was added to the annual recruiting calendar

• Coaches can now attend/evaluate at ‘Top 100 Camp’ in mid-June

• Coaches can now attend/evaluate at high school-related events over last two weekends in June

• Coaches can now attend a one-weekend youth basketball event in early July

• There will be a new collaboration between the NCAA, USA Basketball, and NBA for camps in late July that coaches can attend

• Coaches have to report outside income of over $600 to university

• The NCAA is going to work with apparel companies for accountability/transparency in youth basketball

• The NCAA will implement independent investigators to examine rule violations to prevent conflicts of interest

• Programs/schools will be held more accountable and decisions made in a more efficient manner

• Leadership at universities (administrators and coaches) will be held more accountable for ethical behavior at their universities and stronger penalties may be imposed

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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