With all good intentions, NCAA may unintentionally do harm

On High Schools

High Schools

February 15, 2005|By MILTON KENT

IT'S FUNNY HOW, often, the act of attempting to fix one thing has the effect of hurting something or someone else.

In this case, the NCAA and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, in an attempt to purge some of the viruses that have infected the game, may, instead, spread sickness to some innocent victims.

Specifically, the NCAA's Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet received a package of proposals earlier this month from the WBCA, and its male equivalent, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, regarding recruiting and athlete access.

While most of the NABC's proposals were shot down last month by the Division I Management Council, the WBCA's items moved through largely unscathed and could be enacted in April, when the council gives a final vote.

One of the WBCA's proposals would bar Division I schools from hosting or holding any scholastic or non-scholastic events, practices or competitions, save for high school state tournaments. That proposal, if passed, would go into effect in August 2006, and appears aimed at getting shoe company-sponsored events off college campuses, a noble effort.

The other major proposal, which would take effect this August, would ban evaluations by college coaches of prospective recruits at non-scholastic events during the academic year, sending a crippling, but not fatal, blow to club and Amateur Athletic Union teams that play in the fall and spring.

In real terms, college coaches would be unable to see girls play at any time during the school year other than during the players' actual high school games. The July evaluation period would be unaffected.

Not surprisingly, AAU and club coaches have voiced vociferous opposition to the proposal and have filled the WBCA's e-mail in-box with heartfelt protest letters.

As is usually the case when rule changes are proposed, the programs and people at the upper end of things, meaning coaches like Tennessee's Pat Summitt, Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Gail Goestenkors of Duke, will not suffer. The best players will always find a way to their campuses, and the coaches will hardly have to lift a finger to get them.

Likewise, superstar players on the order of Arundel's Alex McGuire and Chandrea Jones of the Institute of Notre Dame will always find the path to their doorways heavily trod.

But, by limiting school-year evaluations to the high school season, the proposal has the effect of reducing exposure to players who might fall under the radar.

The especially uneven nature of girls high school basketball often means that a talented player may be on a team that does not properly showcase her ability. A college coach, who is already involved in his/her own season, may not make the trip to see one kid play for a bad team in a bad league.

Thus, an opportunity may be lost for a player like River Hill junior guard LaKeisha Eaddy to be noticed on a big-time level. Eaddy might be the best player in Howard County, but because the county hasn't had the recent reputation of producing major Division I talent, few coaches may get the chance to see her play with talent on her level, if not through a club or AAU setting.

To be certain, much of the supposed need for the legislation is a sense that clubs and AAU teams have taken men's basketball hostage, leading to a feeling among those involved with women's ball to take control before things get out of hand.

That's laudable, and you have to hope that those who coach girls in the AAU and on clubs get the message and take steps to not only keep the girls game clean, but to purge non-scholastic ball of dark forces like former Colorado club coach Rick Lopez. Lopez was accused of molesting some of his players before he committed suicide on Dec. 26 in a jail cell.

But, as one Northern Virginia AAU coach put it in an e-mail to the WBCA, "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" isn't a proper response. There has to be a better way to fix the problem, and this legislation isn't it.

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