Kragthorpe: Is college basketball fixable? Yes, but only with some radical changes

As I checked the University of Utah basketball schedule to learn when AP Top 10 teams Arizona and USC would visit the Huntsman Center this season, it hit me: We can never look at these programs the same way.

An assistant coach from each school reportedly soon will face a federal indictment after being arrested in September and charged with taking bribes to steer players to agents. Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson was said to have paid a recruit to commit to the school. USC’s Tony Bland was accused of funneling money to players’ families.

How any of this stuff will affect the Wildcats and Trojans on the court this season is uncertain. What I do know is something has to be done about college basketball. This is not funny anymore. Even worse, it is not fun anymore. So I have genuine hopes that a Pac-12 task force, including athletic directors Chris Hill of Utah and Dan Guerrero of UCLA, will do something revolutionary.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who’s organizing the group, said, “The idea of looking at reform in college basketball is not really new.”

That’s my point. Merely having another conversation is not good enough. In that sense, Scott encouraged me during a visit to Salt Lake City last week when he spoke of “a bias for action.”

College basketball is broken. Fixing it will take some bold moves. Here’s my strategy:

That may sound old-fashioned, but this is one case where a throwback idea from the early 1970s actually is progressive. Rather than merely chasing the cheaters, as only the FBI could do effectively with its investigative powers, this suggestion removes a huge percentage of the incentive to cheat.

Logically, who’s going to pay a recruit who can’t help the program for a year? And how many players are going to leave school for the NBA after one year, when they haven’t competed in college? This basically will eliminate the one-and-done option and restore some semblance of the student-athlete experience for the top players.

The current system makes a mockery of college education. I’m not disparaging Jazz forward Derrick Favors when I say this, but I grimace every time he’s introduced as being “from Georgia Tech.” That’s silly. All that Favors or anyone else had to do before entering the NBA was complete one semester of classes.

To maintain a full team of 13 active players, I would add three scholarships for men’s basketball. For gender equity purposes, that would mean three more scholarships for women’s sports other than basketball programs, which already have 15. Athletic departments can find the money to do this. Most schools could cut into the football coach’s multimillion-dollar salary, as a starting point.

Stop the flow of transfers

Actually, I’ll start by allowing complete freedom to transfer after one year.

If a Division I player spends a full academic year on the campus, practicing with the team, and then decides the school and the program are not good fits for him, he can go somewhere else without restriction or penalty. But that’s the only window.

Make high school basketball matter

The influence of AAU coaches and other brokers contributes to the recruiting problem. And college coaches are spending too much of their summers in gyms, just hoping prospects will notice the logos on their shirts.

If more evaluations took place during the high school season, those programs would have greater importance in the basketball culture and team play would have more value. That’s another way the college product would improve.

Hill is energized by this opportunity, I know that. He will propose some radical ideas like these. That’s what it will take to solve problems that will only get worse, if nothing changes. The FBI can’t do all of the fixing for us.