Butler Bulldogs’ Ronald Nored (R) lunges for the ball with Virginia Commonwealth Rams’ Toby Veal (31) during their semi-final NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston, Texas April 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


By Marcus Shockley

The NCAA enacted sweeping reforms this week intended to help clean up its image and stem some of the scandals that have beset the organization over the past few years. One of the reforms is the reintroduction of a stipend to the players of up to $2,000 intended to help cover the full cost of attendance:

The board approved a measure allowing conferences to vote on providing up to $2,000 in spending money, or what the NCAA calls the full cost-of-attendance. Emmert insists it is not pay-for-play, merely the reintroduction of a stipend that existed for college athletes until 1972. He also compared it to the stipends received by other students who receive non-athletic scholarships.

While some thought the numbers should be higher, it is a step in the right direction. The new reforms also solidifying a plan that was introduced in August, in which teams scoring below 900 on the four-year average would be ineligible for postseason play, unless the team averaged 930 on the two most recent years of data. Of course, this immediately sets off a lot of speculation over certain schools in recent memory who might not have been allowed to compete in the Big Dance (or, for football teams, the BCS bowls) had these reforms been in place previously. The most noticeable example is UConn:

After posting an 826 last year, a UConn official has said this year’s mark will be approximately 975. It would give Connecticut a two-year score of 900.5 and a four-year average of 888.5 — both too low to make the basketball tourney.

While these moves are a good thing, they are merely a small step in the right direction. The concept of recruiting violations and other types of pay-for-play are unlikely to be affected by these moves; the money is just too great at certain levels to stop it with the NCAA’s own conflict of interest in this area.

It’s difficult for the NCAA to balance between enforcement of rules of amateurism while at the same time raking in massive revenue on March Madness and other television deals. The NCAA has, in recent years, pursued infractions which infringe on their revenue stream (such as the attack on Rivals, Scout and 247Sports) while not going after the very same deals at other media outlets (ESPN, CBS), perhaps because of the revenue deals the NCAA has in place with those media outlets. The problem in college sports isn’t the average athlete at a mid major school. It’s the big time players who are almost certainly destined for a pro paycheck, and the NCAA makes money off of those players just like the infamous runners, agents and shoe reps that everyone says are destroying grassroots basketball.

You have to wonder if the shoe companies, who are almost directly in opposition the NCAA (but also have revenue deals with several schools) haven’t considered their own ‘minor’ league circuit to replace the college circuit, one step above AAU. It’s not that far-fetched, and that might be the biggest concern the NCAA has on the horizon.

However, for fans of the game and who understand that for many players, this is their best shot at a college education, these reforms will likely help them, and that’s good.