The NCAA today announced new rules which will make it easier for athletes good enough to make it to the NBA to return to school if those dreams fall short.
College basketball players will now be able to retain NCAA-certified agents who can advise them on pro prospects, to return to school if they aren’t drafted, and to receive financial support if they return to finish their degrees.
The goal, NCAA officials say, is to limit players receiving payment and schools breaking NCAA rules in recruitment and signing. Violating schools will face harsher penalties if caught breaking the new guidelines.
Elite college basketball programs have less financial leverage to offer players to choose one power school over another. Black players are growing in their consciousness about where to align their brands and talents, particularly with HBCUs as a growing part of the conversation.
The nation’s top high school football player recently visited Florida A&M University, a top commit to the University of Oregon has transferred to North Carolina Central University, Virginia State University standout Trent Cannon looks to be the New York Jets’ version of Tarik Cohen, and Howard University quarterback Caylin Newton appears to have his famous brother wearing HBCU short-shorts.
Players historically have chosen larger PWIs as the gateway to better competition, more exposure, and financial benefit in some cases. A growing number of players are bucking that trend, and aligning themselves with historically black institutions as a form of resistence to NCAA disparity and growing racial divisions in the country.
If money becomes less of a factor for players, HBCUs could become more appealing for those athletes who can hire an agent, enter the draft and get exposure on any campus; all while raising the profile of teams and schools in desperate need of the promotion.
The NFL has already tried to co-opt HBCUs to establish a sense of support for an increasingly discouraged and distrustful black workforce. The NBA is ahead of every other league in working to create talent pipelines from black colleges and players have matched the work with philanthropy and their own forms of exposure.
College sports culture is changing to adapt to new attitudes from black athletes and the fans who support them. PWIs are certain to adapt to the social agenda of athletes with earlier engagement and more comprehensive recruiting; something that HBCUs simply can’t afford and can’t buy over years for elite athletes who begin attracting attention in grade school.
But for the handful of players who are looking for a way to build their activism profile, the new rules could give them a platform and the access to support HBCUs, without diminishing their brands or chances at pro careers. And that could be a game changing culture shift for black college sports.