But the Basketball Coaches Association of Tennessee was at the forefront in pushing for major changes to the structure of the recruiting process — change many believed was needed.
The biggest part of the change is a camp where recruits will play with their high school teams in front of college coaches during a newly created live-recruiting period in the summer. There will also be a one-day combine-type event.
The main goal is to return more influence to education-based coaches.
HOW WE GOT HERE
College basketball is a big-money landscape, and there has been no shortage of corruption when it comes to supplying the players who keep these money-making machines churning.
The Commission on College Basketball, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and released last year, addressed corruption issues after a federal investigation that alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to influence recruits’ choices of schools. The commission called non-scholastic basketball an ungoverned space with coaches, agents, sponsors, players and their families exchanging money and goods in the hope of future benefits. And there was no accountability for those involved.
The commission overhauled the summer evaluation period, with effects beginning this year. The goal was lessening the recruiting influence of shoe company-sponsored grassroots teams and coaches.
ENTER THE BCAT
In July 2017, the BCAT was on the ground floor of the recently passed NCAA legislation. The group said it wanted to be part of the solution to a long-standing problem in the sport. The BCAT helped bring up the specific idea of giving high school coaches a stronger hand in the recruiting process — which is how things worked before shoe companies basically took over the process.
The NCAA passed legislation to allow the last two weekends of June to be live recruiting periods. College coaches will be able to attend these events to evaluate student-athletes. In Tennessee, the boys’ team camp will be held June 21-22 in Memphis, before the TSSAA’s dead period.
On June 29, the top 100 players from the state (rising sophomores through seniors) will participate in an invite-only event at Murfreesboro’s Blackman High School. The TSSAA has approved both camps.
These events are a major departure from what was previously allowed for high school teams, and Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner said he believes the camps will be successful.
“The whole gist of it, I agree with 100 percent,” said Turner. “And that is to try to get recruiting more back into the hands of the high school coaches, and loosen the grip of AAU coaches.”
Turner’s point is supported by the common-sense notion that those involved in both education and athletics are best equipped to handle a student-athlete in the transition period between high school and college.
“We are educational-based athletics,” he said. “We have the kids’ best interests at heart. People lose sight of what the true purpose is for athletics. It’s not winning. Everybody wants to win, but your purpose is to mold young men and women into better people so they can be successful in life. And winning will be the result of doing the right things, most of the time.”
Turner said the time has come for change as the recruiting atmosphere is expanding, reaching into youth-level sports.
“Parents are running 10-year-olds all over the country,” said Turner. “We’ve got to start sending a different message to parents. They are getting taken to school, paying $50 an hour for their kid to work with some boy.”
DOLLARS AND SENSE
Recognizing the new camps could face their own level of compromise because of the money involved, the BCAT set guidelines for pricing.
Teams will receive a three-to-four game guarantee with a fee of $200. Also, admission fees for games cannot exceed $10.
“They’re controlling the amount of money that can be made,” said Turner. “The concept is great.”
Schools will use the Memphis team camp as part of their normal allotment of days for the summer.
CAVEATS TO PARTICIPATION
Turner said there will be a limited number of teams in the camp, which will be held at 10 gyms in the Memphis area — including Arlington, Bartlett and Briarcrest.
“You have to have a college-level player on your team in order to play in this,” said Turner.
Also, all participating teams must be members of the TSSAA. This is an important distinction because another issue hurting high school basketball is kids leaving to play for powerhouse-type private schools, which can cherry pick standout players with the lure of more attention from college coaches.
The camp event will rotate across the state, and could be held in the Tri-Cities area in the coming years.
WHAT ABOUT THE GIRLS?
The BCAT said it will run similar girls’ events in conjunction with the boys’ events to settle any Title IX issues that could arise.
In a statement from the BCAT, “We are not sure how the response will be (for a girls’ event), since this has yet to be sanctioned by the NCAA.”