In a move almost certain to be a lightning rod for debate in the already contentious world of club basketball, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) announced that it will implement broader resident requirements in any of its girls' basketball events that is certified by the NCAA for viewing by college coaches.
The temporary move, allowing its sanctioned teams to have an unlimited number of members outside the state or district boundaries, is a dramatic departure from longtime AAU rules. The AAU previously restricted teams to a maximum of three players from a bordering district. A team's district is defined by the coach's residence.
As referenced in its announcement, the AAU is moving in response to the NCAA's postponement of residence restrictions to beyond the summer of 2010. Proposed legislation was amended to take effect on Sept. 1, 2010, and will be put to a vote in April (see NCAA clears way for club-team cap).
"The AAU believes in residency requirements and encourages the NCAA to approve such legislation in the future," the AAU girls basketball board said in a statement. "However, we believe, that for this summer, temporarily modifying our residency requirements will facilitate improvements in the Girls' Basketball environment to coincide with the NCAA standards."
Once a staple for both prospects and college coaches, AAU events in recent years have lost considerable relevance. Travel expenses in particular have negatively impacted the number of teams that participate in the AAU's top event, including its age-group "national championships." College coaches follow the best players, so their attendance at AAU tournaments has dropped off in turn.
This move also positions the AAU as a more meaningful competitor with established summer club-team events (see Club changes for 2010), some of the largest including the End of the Trail (Oregon), Summer Showcase (Chicago), USJN Nationals (D.C.), Showtime Nationals (Georgia) and Nike Nationals (South Carolina). The AAU announced that it would seek NCAA certification for its 13U nationals in Kings Island, Ohio, and its 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U and 19U nationals in Orlando, Fla., as well as five other events through the July evaluation period. Most of the events will go head to head with aforementioned club events and others.
Mike Flynn, who has a unique perspective because he runs an AAU-sanctioned program (Philadelphia Belles), was a former governor of the AAU's Mid-Atlantic district and operates events (via Blue Star Basketball and U.S. Junior Nationals), said the move "takes away the uniqueness and specialness of the AAU.
"It's sad to see this latest move because the AAU enjoys a unique position in our sport and they are stepping down from this unique position to be like every other event in the sport by focusing just on observation basketball," Flynn added.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girl's club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.