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By Gary Brown
The two coaches who closed out the 2009-10 college basketball season are interested in a more collective and exciting way to open future campaigns.
Speaking during the first national teleconference of the season, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Butler’s Brad Stevens, who faced each other in last year’s championship game, advocated for a more recognizable and energetic opening weekend, day or event that brings college basketball more to the fore during a time when football is dominating the sporting scene.
Both coaches were part of a third annual 24-hour broadcast marathon yesterday during which 19 games were shown, including Duke’s 79-45 victory over Miami (Ohio) and Louisville’s 88-73 conquest of Stevens’ Bulldogs. Both men said that something like that earlier in the year would benefit the game.
“What happened yesterday was great for the game,” Krzyzewski said. “It actually felt like the start of the basketball season. We should have an official start of the season. Nobody really knows when it starts now. For all those teams that were involved (with the marathon), especially those not involved with tournaments – to play those level of games, I admire those coaches and schools.”
Stevens agreed, saying it would rally college basketball fans who otherwise aren’t aware that the season is underway.
“Sometimes toward the waning parts of the football regular season, all of the sudden a college basketball game pops up and people say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize that was going on,’ ” Stevens said.
Division I Men’s Basketball Committee chair Gene Smith, who also was on Wednesday’s call, told NCAA.org Tuesday that the committee has talked about ways to enhance the opening of the season and will continue to explore alternatives.
“It’s not within the committee’s purview to create or mandate an official start of the season,” Smith said, “but we will continue to discuss this topic and explore options. Right now, the staggered approach to opening the season kind of gets lost in a time when the tension in Division I football is so huge. We’re right in that window where the awareness of BCS football is so prevalent. Can we create something in that space to raise awareness and attention for basketball?”
In addition to talking about in-season competition, Krzyzewski and Stevens also addressed off-season issues, including summer recruiting. Asked what he thought about a proposal from the Division I Collegiate Commissioners Association earlier this fall about eliminating the summer recruiting period, Krzyzewski said, “First of all, I’d like to see legislation not put forward without input from coaches.”
In September, the CCA voted 27-2-2 to ask the Division I Board of Directors to sponsor legislation in the 2010-11 cycle that would eliminate the July recruiting period for men’s basketball with the aim of reducing third-party influence in the sport.
The Board in October chose not to sponsor such a proposal but did advocate a more comprehensive review of the basketball recruiting model, including the summer period, with possible legislative changes being considered for the 2011-12 cycle.
“Summer recruiting is essential for schools at all levels,” Krzyzewski said. “The amount of money you’d have to put into it if you didn’t have summer recruiting would be immense because you get to see so many kids in a short period in one area.
“What we do with summer recruiting should be a consensus among coaches and administrators as to do what’s best for the game. But you’re going to have to do something (recruiting) in the summer. Kids are going to play in the summer, and you’re going to need to go out in the summer or else you’re going to have to deal with more people who have no restrictions placed on them or aren’t answerable to any academic authorities.”
Stevens said while he doesn’t favor eliminating the July period, he could accept some reductions.
“I don’t know that 20 days (in July) is the right thing – I think that’s a bit much, personally, because I think kids and coaches are tired – it’s well documented how unhealthy the whole month is,” he said. “But if they can knock it back a couple of days and add a couple days in April, I’d be all for it. You have to make it so that we can watch these kids all in one place or at least in a few different places. It’s very cost-effective and is the right thing for us to do.”
Stevens also argued for access, both to prospective student-athletes and current players.
“I hope we’d get more access across the board as we continue to look at new legislation – the more access you have to recruits with regard to getting to know them and for them getting to know you, the better your retention will be, the better your APR will be, the better chance you have of finding the right fits for your program.”
Stevens also fielded questions about Butler’s magical run to last year’s championship game. He said the true impact on the athletics program and the university itself might not be fully apparent for several years, “but in regard to the awareness globally of Butler, there is a lot more than before, and that’s a positive thing.”
Smith said Butler’s road to the Final Four “continued to perpetuate the idea that anyone can achieve greatness.”
“People underestimate the capabilities of schools that are branded differently,” he said. “When you have an institution that creates an environment for a coach like Brad and his young men to excel, they’re going to take advantage of that platform. Every year you’re going to have some teams that are going to emerge that way. Now whether they can advance all the way to the Final Four, who knows? But there will be teams who unexpectedly get in and unexpectedly make that run, and that’s great for college basketball.”