On Wednesday the NCAA passed sweeping college basketball legislation. The NCAA identified areas to change to help student-athletes be flexible when deciding to go pro and helping former student-athletes return to get their degree. By adding five additional official visit opportunities for prospective student-athletes, high school students should be able to make a more informed decision on where to attend college. Allowing a student-athlete to participate in the NBA draft and return to school if undrafted allows student-athletes to return to school rather than being forced to turn professional before they are ready. Last, former student-athletes will be more prepared for a future after professional sports by the requirement that Division I schools pay for tuition, fees, and books for men’s and women’s basketball players who left school and returned later to the same school to earn their degree.
Effective August 15th, basketball student-athletes will be able to make more frequent official visits. The new basketball legislation will allow a student-athlete to take five visits between August 1st and the end of their junior year of high school. Five visits between the end of their junior year and October 15th after high school graduation. And then five additional visits between October 15th after high school graduation and the remainder of their college eligibility. This means that prospective student-athletes will now have the opportunity to take 10 official visits while in high school. This should allow the student-athletes to make a more informed decision on where to attend school, and opening up their options from five schools to ten schools to decide from. This also reduces the need to take unofficial visits on a prospective student-athletes’ own money, and instead, they will now have the opportunity to visit more schools without needing to worry about how to finance trips.
Currently, a student-athlete interested in going pro can attend the NBA combine but must withdraw from the NBA draft within 10 days after the combine in order to remain eligible for college athletics. Meaning some student-athletes who are on the fringe of being a projected draft pick needs to decide without knowing whether or not he will actually be drafted and be able to pursue a career in the NBA. Under the new NCAA basketball legislation and pending approval from the NBA, a student-athlete will be able to go through the entire draft process and return to school if not drafted. This decision puts basketball more in line with baseball in terms of allowing student-athletes to go through the entire draft process without jeopardizing their opportunity to return to college and continue to develop as a student-athlete.
The decision to allow undrafted student-athletes to return to school also coincides with the decision, pending NBA approval, to allow elite high school seniors and college student-athletes to hire an agent. Agents will also be allowed to provide meals and transportation to student-athletes and their family as long as it is related to the agent selection process or related to a meeting with an agent or professional team. This decision allows student-athletes to be more informed of their draft potential, and make a more informed decision on whether to enter the NBA draft. Also, making these agreements allowable and public, it allows Universities to more easily monitor agent and student-athlete contacts to ensure compliance with the new basketball legislation.
Last, the NCAA took a large step in helping student-athletes after their professional career by requiring Division I schools to pay for tuition, fees, and books for basketball players who leave school and later return to that same school to earn their degree. While a select few professional basketball players will not need to work after their playing career, this requirement will help many former student-athletes earn their degree and prepare for their career after athletics. While many schools already have a similar system in place for former student-athletes, this requirement will allow basketball student-athletes at all Division I schools to have this opportunity.
While many of the new NCAA requirements require NBA approval, such as hiring agents and returning to school if undrafted, it is still an important step for the NCAA in providing student-athletes more freedom and flexibility in making the initial college decision and also in planning their professional career. If these changes lead to a positive impact, it could also lead to similar reform in other sports such as Football. While the NCAA suggested many changes to basketball on Wednesday, the changes to official visits, return to school if undrafted, and the requirement to pay for tuition, fees, and books for former basketball student-athletes should lead to meaningful change in the student-athlete experience.