Bamford, A-10 administrators praise college basketball commission’s first steps; outsiders call recommendations flawed

  • FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2016, file photo, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice speaks during a luncheon at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio. College basketball spent an entire season operating amid a federal corruption investigation that magnified long-simmering problems within the sport, from unethical agent conduct to concerns over the "one-and-done" model. On Wednesday morning, April 25, 2018, the commission headed by Condoleezza Rice will present its proposed reforms to university presidents of the NCAA Board of Governors and the Division I Board of Directors at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) Eric Gay

Published: 4/26/2018 10:17:56 PM

After the Condoleeza Rice-led commission released its recommendations for fixing men’s college basketball Thursday, the public comments from most administrators took an optimistic approach. They framed the report as the first step toward larger solutions down the road.

The commission was formed as a reaction to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into illegal payments to recruits through shoe companies.

Reached late Wednesday, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford, who spent the day traveling back from Hockey East meetings in Florida followed by a fan meet and greet in Boston, said he hadn’t studied the entire 60-page document yet, but read media accounts of it.

“There are some systemic problems with what we’re doing with college basketball and I think it highlighted a lot of them. Now collectively as an enterprise we have to address them,” Bamford said. “I don’t know what the reform will be or where we’ll end up, but I’m glad we had the commission working on it to at lease start us down this path.

“I think there’s a lot of things we have to attack individually through legislation,” Bamford continued. “But I do think it sets the tone to say the gross abuse of the rules has to stop and now we have to put some things in place to affect good change. I think this sets the table. I think it’s step one of I don’t know how many steps.”

The Atlantic 10 issued a release with reactions from the commissioner and the chair of the league’s athletic directors.

“The Commission recommendations are a strong start to reform. It is obvious the commission has been deliberate and thorough in its work,” Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said.

VCU AD Ed McLaughlin said in a tweet that was included in the release: “Rice Commission wasn’t going to solve all of our problems as a sport immediately but gave a fantastic framework for change. Change needs to start now. A lot of us ADs have said many of the things recommended for the last few years so I hope real change happens. #RiceCommission”

Outside of the administrators, the reaction has been more critical. National media widely criticized the proposal because it created no path to players earning added compensation. Without that, players being paid under the table, the core issue that sparked the FBI investigation, hadn’t been disincentivized.

Former UMass basketball player Luke Bonner, an advocate for athlete’s rights who attempted to help Northwestern football players create a union in 2014, said the process was flawed from the beginning based on the makeup of the commission, which included no current or recent players.

“It was pretty much what I expected when the commission was announced. It was more of a PR move than a bastion of change,” he said. “It’s hard to accept any recommendations coming out of this commission as super legitimate. The commission is made up of millionaires basically, career politicians, guys who played with really long NBA careers in the 1980s and 1990s and former coaches with million dollar contracts. “What’s being lost is the player. There’s no current players or recent players on this commission.”

Bonner liked the suggestion that undrafted players with eligibility remaining be allowed to return to school.

“It seems this commission existed more to preserve the institution of college basketball from the NCAA’s perspective,” Bonner continued “All of the supposed issues are the direct result of the NCAA’s concept of amateurism. There are people facing serious jail time because of the result of the NCAA acting as an economic cartel.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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