Wednesday, December 29
College basketball in the 21st century
By Greg Collins

 Things to watch for in the next century in college basetball:

Kobe Bryant
Expect more players like Kobe Bryant to skip college and possibly play in a true minor league before heading to the NBA.

CBA minor leagues
The idea of every kid who comes to college staying for four years has been outdated for the past decade. The next brick to fall will be the notion that you don't need to go to college at all. The very best high school players have proven that they can withstand the rigors of the NBA; but what about the 50 others who don't really want to be in college and think they can cut it in The League but can't?

NBA teams know they can't jeopardize their futures by drafting every promising prep star and hoping he develops into Kobe or KG. College coaches will grow weary of spending countless hours recruiting athletes who plan on being on campus for only a year or two. Instead, those kids will end up in the revamped CBA under Isiah Thomas' minor league plan. A situation where an 18- or 19-year old can play every day under the watchful eye of NBA scouts and general managers -- and get paid for it -- while not having to worry about midterms or where to get pizza money would attract enough young talent to keep a developmental league going.

And who knows, maybe the players will actually be coached a little, too. Meanwhile, college basketball programs will continue to attract players who both want to be a student and an athlete.

Shoe companies extend their influence
Nike already has a golf tour -- why not a hoops league? There's no doubt Nike and Adidas monopolize prep players' lives -- which AAU team you play for, which major summer camp you attend, even what college you end up at; all those can be traced to the name on your shoes. Looking to sink their hooks into the next major marketable star, the shoe companies will do just about anything to maintain a player's loyalty. So why do they put their "investment" in the hands of a college coach, even for a year? If the CBA drags its feet on creating a minor league, look for the shoe companies to beat Isiah & Co. to the punch. Then watch as they promote a player from high school to the Nike league to the NBA, all without missing a beat.

NCAA loses power
The NCAA should consider itself lucky that a player hasn't sued over the current transfer rules. Seeing the writing on the wall (or reading it off the cue cards provided by the television networks, athletic directors, coaches and shoe companies), the NCAA will relax its byzantine rules, most specifically the ones regarding transfers and recruiting.

Expect to see Division I football and basketball transfers playing right away at their new schools (every other sport already allows it) rather than having to establish a "year in residence." Then watch as the limitations on recruiting come crumbling down. No more dead, quiet, contact and evaluation periods -- coaches and authorized representatives are allowed to talk to players whenever, wherever. A coach is part salesman already -- if he chooses to be on the road for the entire summer, so be it. He'll reap the benefits of his work, and the system will find an equilibrium.

Knight breaks Smith's all-time victory record
Bobby Knight isn't going to retire any time soon. With 743 career victories entering the 1999-2000 season, Knight needs to average 19.4 wins over the next seven seasons to break Dean Smith's record of 879 wins. Should he up that average to 22 wins, he'll do it in just over six seasons. Knight, who will turn 60 on Oct. 25, 2000, has had 20 seasons of 20-plus wins in his 28-year stint at Indiana.

While some have suggested lately that Knight has lost his edge to recruit and keep top-notch athletes at Indiana, his latest recruiting effort (punctuated by landing local prospect Jared Jeffries, who was also considering Duke) suggests that The General isn't ready to hang up his trademark red sweater. And no coach is as stubborn as Knight, who might just want to stick it to the college basketball world by putting his name at the top of the coaching charts.

Coaches continue to get younger
Face it -- recruiting is the lifeblood of college basketball, and it takes energy to be a good recruiter. As the summers heat up and older coaches realize they can't cut it anymore, the new jobs will go to the young stud recruiters who can best relate to the players and energize the program. Billy Donovan, Quin Snyder and Steve Alford are just some of the names riding the first wave of this revolution. Coaches also need to be quicker on their feet because of early entry -- no longer can a coach guarantee success for a three- or four-year span because of one good class. Younger coaches will be able to fill those gaps easier than the dinosaurs.

NCAA Tourney games on demand, and the rest follows
Whether it's through pay-per-view television, expanded cable coverage or via the Internet, fans will have the choice to watch whatever NCAA Tournament game they want. (What this will do to the nation's productivity on certain days in March is fodder for an entirely different list.) Soon after, every game -- exhibition, regular season and postseason -- will be available through some sort of streamed broadcast on the 'Net and your TV as the two media are melded; that increase in distribution will only pour more money into the NCAA's coffers as additional contracts must be negotiated for broadcast rights.

Caught in the 'Net
Like any technological innovation, the Internet brings with it both positive and negative applications. The abundant, high-speed access found on college campuses, combined with the massive amounts of sports gambling that goes on over the Internet, is a lethal combination. Whether it involves players actively shaving points or throwing games or just rampant campus gambling, the Internet will play a major role in the next gambling scandal to hit college basketball.

High school junior declares for draft
This could come earlier than you might expect. Tyson Chandler, a 7-foot-2 center from Compton, Calif., could test this convention come June. Eight high school seniors have been drafted over the last four years, and as that trickle becomes more of a steady flow (where the top 3-5 prep players are projected to declare for the draft every year), watch for the top high school underclassmen to ride the crest of the wave. But unless a fall-back system (read: a minor league) is in place for those not mature enough to handle the rigors of the NBA, more players will be lost in the system like Leon Smith and Korleone Young.

Pay-for-play gains momentum but doesn't happen
On the heels of the new $6 billion NCAA Tournament contract, the argument to pay players will come under more scrutiny. But it won't happen. Few athletic departments turn profits under the current set-up, so even the additional payout from the new deal might not cover losses currently on the books at many schools.

But the bigger sticking point is a legal one. Paying players from just the revenue sports and not the others conflicts with Title IX, which states "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." The key clause here? That would be the denial of benefits, i.e. pay-for-play. If the boys are getting it, the girls should too. And there's no way every athletic department will pay every athlete in every varsity sport.

Greg Collins is the men's college basketball editor at