Bowlsby Engaged in Hoops Discussion

Jan. 4, 2005

Editor’s Note: The following was written by Gary T. Brown and first appeared in the Dec. 20, 2004 edition of The NCAA News.

A collection of some of the most influential people in men’s basketball gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York December 15 to put a mechanism in place for a national discussion to advance the game.

NCAA President Myles Brand announced the formation of the College Basketball Partnership (CBP), which is a panel of coaches, administrators, broadcast representatives and NCAA senior staff appointed to address the challenges and opportunities that face the sport.

Brand called the partnership “an action-oriented group” whose dramatic effects will be realized over the next year or two.

“We view college basketball as a destination. Our game isn’t complete without a quality educational element. In this case, the classroom has an able floor under it. The basketball coaches are some of the very best teachers on their campuses, and we want to celebrate that.”
UI Director of Athletics Bob Bowlsby

“We needed to make this group public,” he said. “We’ve been working behind the scenes for several months. People need to know that we’re there as a team. This team is going to make a difference.”

The panel, which already has met twice in the last six months, include Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski; Dave Gavitt, chair emeritus of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame; Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany; Kelvin Sampson, University of Oklahoma head coach; University of Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby; and Jim Boeheim, Syracuse University head coach.

Brand said the group originally was convened as a representative collection of stakeholders to discuss “challenges and opportunities” to shape the future of college basketball. After the first meeting, though, Brand said he was struck by “the enthusiasm of the individuals who are participating in the partnership because of their love for the game and their desire to preserve its future.”

Brand said it became apparent that the work of the CPB would be most effective if others who care about college basketball know of the group’s existence. Thus, he and other members of the partnership felt it was prudent to go public.

“I want to stress that this group has not been convened because we think our game is in some way broken – although we certainly recognize that there are aspects of the game that are not what we would want them to be right now,” Brand said.

“Rather we think that we can better protect and grow college basketball in the future by having all those involved work together to plan that future.”

Krzyzewski said the group has the makings of an outstanding team.

“I look at this not so much as a partnership, but as a team,” he said. “Our game needs for everyone to be on the same team. For the last few months we’ve been talking about it; now we’re making it public.

“Our meetings will lead to action that will give our game a unified voice, a unified commitment. Our game deserves that – student-athletes playing our game deserve that unity of purpose and voice. The result of this is that college basketball will win at a level it could have own at if this team were not established.

In addition to representatives from the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the NCAA staff, the CBP also includes members of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, NCAA media partners and former coaches or administrators.

Brand said the group was appointed specifically to address the men’s game “because of the issues involved.” But Brand said their may be a parallel effort in the future for women’s basketball.

The focus for the partnership is the college game, which Brand calls “an extraordinary asset for all of intercollegiate athletics in terms of a primary example of the uniquely American experiment in which athletics participation is a value-added component of higher education.”

The CVP will serve as an ongoing oversight group that will make recommendations to strengthen the game, using the NCAA governance structure to make changes where necessary.

Gavitt said nothing is off limits for discussion.

“This is farm more than about legislative changes,” he said. “This is about making sure that our game continues to be unique. We need to do a better job of communicating stories. We shouldn’t have to wait until the tournament in March to find out there’s a kid named (Taylor) Coppenrath at Vermont who is an extraordinary player that isn’t known just because he’s from a smaller conference.

“We’re also going to focus on the competitive aspects and the style of play. College basketball is a game of motion, a game in which players learn about passing, ball movement and player movement. We need to be sure that the game continues to be presented that way. We’ll also address respect for opponents; fans’ respect for visiting teams, the importance of sportsmanship, and the importance of understanding that our players are students first.”

Bowlsby called the group an “incubator for ideas to celebrate and enhance; the game.”

“We view college basketball as a destination,” he said. “Our game isn’t complete without a quality educational element. In this case, the classroom has an able floor under it. The basketball coaches are some of the very best teachers on their campuses, and we want to celebrate that.”

Though the group did not bring forward specific recommendations or legislative proposals at this time, members did reference the access and recruiting packages from then men’s and women’s coaches associations already in the Division I legislative cycle as potential change agents.

Mostly, though, members focused on the fact that the partnership is in place as the day’s biggest victory.

“Coaches always have said their voice is not heard enough,” said Oklahoma’s Sampson. “Well, it’s being heard now. We’re here to make our game better, but what is encouraging to the coaches is that not only do we have a voice, but that the voice is being heard.”

Krzyzewski recalled that the process in the past often was for coaches, usually through the NABC, to make suggestions for change but that there was no mechanism or think-tank by which to move the concepts forward.

“Now that I’ve been involved with this partnership, though, I understand the NCAA position more, the conference commissioners more and the TV partners more,” he said. “It’s all part of our vision, not just the coaches’ vision.

“As coaches, we ask our teams all the time, especially when we’re running a play: `Isn’t two better than one?’ Well, two isn’t necessarily better than one unless the two act as one. In the history of our game, all the entities in basketball have never collectively acted as one.”

Gavitt said this first-time “critical mass” of stakeholders will ensure the health of the game.

“It will be like going to the Mayo Clinic for an annual physical,” he said. “You have all the specialists there, all the stakeholders, all the people taking a look at the health of our game. Whether it be with paying rules, the style of play, recruiting, fan behavior, whatever – we will protect and nurture our game in a special way.”

The next meeting of the CBP is scheduled for April in St. Louis, site of the 2005 Men’s Final Four.