Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Sports

NCAA to ponder changes to keep with times

ARLINGTON, Texas — On the eve of the final college basketball game of the year, NCAA president Mark Emmert and other top college athletic administrators acknowledged it's time for the NCAA to take a hard look at many issues concerning student-athletes, including recruiting, one-and-done athletes and monetary compensation.

"I've been at this 35 years now," said Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby. "As I look back on that time there's really been a lot of change, and yet there's a lot of stuff that's exactly the same. We, in some ways, have been unwilling or unable to make meaningful change, and it feels like for a variety of reasons we now have an opportunity to do that. … It's a good time for us to think about redefining what a scholarship looks like."

Redefining what's acceptable in recruiting to keep up with modern technology, such as using Skype or Facetime as recruiting mechanisms, examining the hours student-athletes spend on their sports, and putting more pressure on the NBA and its players association to provide an alternative feeder system, are also among the primary concerns, officials said.

Administrators also said they are searching for solutions to keep Division I intact, while giving more autonomy to the five power conferences.

"I would like to underscore the diversity of Division I; it's 340 institutions whose athletic budgets range from $5 million to $150 million," said Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, who is leading the NCAA steering committee on governance reform. "Our goal is to keep that as one division; that has great advantages. At the same time, we do have to find a way to recognize differences, and we do want to grant certain areas of autonomy to the five well-resourced conferences. … As you know, in those conferences the pressure on student-athletes is great, and thus we need to find better, more effective means of support."

Emmert was less enthusiastic about players unionizing, calling the effort a "grossly inappropriate" way to solve problems in college sports.

New low not so bad? Basketball committee chairman Ron Wellman was asked whether it was good or bad for the selection group that the No. 8 Kentucky-No. 7 UConn title game is the highest seeding total since the format was adopted in 1979.

"I don't think it's bad," said Wellman, the athletic director at Wake Forest. "I wouldn't say it's good, either. It's unique for sure.

"We talked in the committee room that you could actually take a whole line of seeds just about at any location and adjust it two lines and nobody would even know the difference because there's that much parity in college basketball today," he added. "You're probably going to see these types of seeds doing well in the future … because I don't think we're going to lose parity in college basketball."

VETERAN WISDOM: If you're looking for one area in which UConn might have an advantage over Kentucky, it's the Huskies' veterans. With Kentucky trailing Wisconsin by two, Wildcats G Aaron Harrison hit the winning 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining. Huskies senior G Ryan Boatright said Wisconsin made a crucial mistake the UConn veterans won't repeat.

"If you're up two, you never let them shoot a 3," Boatright said. "This is where experience can come in. If you're up two, you have got to run him off the 3-point line. He didn't even dribble the ball. You've got make him dribble and shoot off the dribble. Both of us (he and senior G Shabazz Napier) realize you've got to make a shooter work in a situation like that."

TV ratings down: The Final Four's TV viewership was down after its move to cable. The two NCAA semifinals Saturday averaged a total of 14 million viewers, an 11 percent decrease from last year's games on CBS. That number included viewers of the main coverage on TBS and the school-specific "TeamCasts" on TNT and truTV. Turner Sports and CBS did not receive network-by-network ratings breakdowns from Nielsen. TBS is in about 14 percent fewer homes than CBS.

This was the first time the semifinals were on cable. Kentucky's win over Wisconsin averaged 16.3 million viewers, down 5 percent from last year's Michigan-Syracuse game, but it was the most-watched college basketball game on cable ever, topping Florida-Florida Gulf Coast (6.7 million in the 2013 Sweet 16) on TBS. The 11.7 million viewers for UConn's victory over Florida were down 19 percent from Louisville-Wichita State last year.

Watch that pile: Kentucky F Alex Poythress hurt his left knee when teammates rolled onto him in the wild on-court celebration after the victory over Wisconsin. He limped to the postgame news conference but vowed to play tonight.

BATTLE-TESTED: Kentucky is the first team to win four consecutive games by five points or fewer in a single NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have won five games in this tournament by a total margin of victory of 18 points, the lowest margin of victory for any NCAA title game participant in the history of the tournament.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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