Tom Sorensen

What could replace the NCAA for college basketball? Here’s why we’ll never find out.

Most of us understand and accept that the model the NCAA uses for college basketball is terribly flawed, and choose to enjoy it anyway.
Most of us understand and accept that the model the NCAA uses for college basketball is terribly flawed, and choose to enjoy it anyway. AP

The only way for the NCAA to fix college basketball is to blow it up and start over. Only those that hate the sport, or hate that their team can’t compete successfully, would want that.

The rest of us understand and accept that the model the NCAA uses is terribly flawed, and choose to enjoy it anyway.

Yahoo broke the story that elite players are paid thousands of dollars by agents and coaches. The FBI used wiretaps and Yahoo named players and programs. Programs mentioned include Duke and North Carolina. Players mentioned include Dennis Smith, who spent one season, last season, at N.C. State. He’s having a terrific rookie year for the Dallas Mavericks.

But wait. Didn’t we know that players were getting paid? Didn’t we know that agents were investing in players? Didn’t we know that AAU coaches and runners functioned as middlemen? Of course we knew.

Can you think of a system that could supplant the NCAA? LeBron James suggests that the NBA invest more in the G League, its developmental league. Players could move straight from high school to the G League and get paid above the table.

I’ve long been a proponent of paying football players and men’s basketball players. These are the only sports that can make money for schools.

But let’s say the NCAA declares that, yes, schools can pay players more than the room, board, books, tuition and stipends they presently receive. Let’s say athletes are eligible to receive $10,000 a year beyond what schools already provide.

Somebody else will offer $20,000 or $30,000, $75,000 or $100,000. Can we get $110,000? Who will give me $110,000? Going once, going twice – sold to the school with the renowned equine-science program and the 9-9 record in the conference standings.

Nobody likes the NBA’s one and done rule. The NBA doesn’t like it. The rule says that a player leaving high school isn’t NBA eligible until he plays one season in college or a lesser professional league.

One and done can turn a player leaving high school into a mercenary. Agents identify the players that will go pro, and give them money for a promise to sign, or lend them money to coax them to sign. Agents pay, schools pay, and after five months in school, the players go pro.

Are the players the bad guys? Are the coaches? Are the agents? Or are they merely pieces of a system too corrupt to fix?

You know how we’ll eat a hamburger and have no interest in seeing how it was made? Presidents of universities want their men’s basketball coaches to win. I’m not sure they always care about seeing what goes into those victories.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is big and beautiful and worth billions.

If we empower the FBI to go after the people that corrupt it, and the NCAA joins the fight, our favorite schools might be caught up in the carnage.

Davidson will be favored when it plays Harvard for the national championship..

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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