NCAA makes rules changes

INDIANAPOLIS -- College basketball players will have less time to decide whether to stay in the NBA draft and college football players will be spending more time in the classroom.

The NCAA's Board of Directors adopted changes Thursday that will take effect next season and could have a significant impact on those in the two highest-profile college sports.

Football players could be suspended for up to four games, starting in 2012, if they fail to earn at least nine credit hours in the fall semester -- or eight on a quarterly system.

Basketball players must decide before the first day of the spring signing period, typically mid-April, to pull out of the draft and retain their college eligibility. This year, players have until May 8 to withdraw from the draft.

"For players, I just don't see how that helps them a whole lot," Butler forward Matt Howard said Thursday during a shootaround at Hinkle Fieldhouse. "It almost makes it pointless to put your name out and not sign with an agent."

The legislation wasn't intended to help players.

Coaches wanted the earlier date so they could find replacements for those making an early jump to the NBA.

Yet it's the players who could pay the steepest price.

By mid-April, NBA camps have barely begun and teams haven't started holding individual workouts. That gives players like Howard's teammate, Shelvin Mack, little chance of gathering up-to-date information before making a decision. Mack decided to forgo his final college season April 12 but did not hire an agent, making him eligible to return for his senior year.

Mack is in a tricky predicament. Some believe he's a borderline first-round pick, so he's continued to work out with his college teammates while he pursues a pro career.

The missed workouts could make things even tougher for NBA teams, too.

"It always affects it," said Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird. "There's some young men I thought were definitely going to be in the draft and they didn't even apply for it. There's one of them that pulled out that I was going to take. So it affects everything we do."

Some NBA players do not believe an earlier date will change anybody's mind.

"Once I realized my opportunity and where I could possibly be drafted, I pretty much had made up my mind," Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said Thursday. "I had an opportunity to go, and I was going to take it."

Conley left Ohio State after his freshman season.

Howard, a senior and a two-time NCAA Elite 88 Award winner, doesn't buy it. Howard won the award for having the highest GPA of any player at each of the past two Final Fours.

"There's a lot of guys who would not entertain it [leaving early] and a lot that would, if they do entertain it, are going to sign with an agent immediately," he said.

Committee members did not take questions about the new rule, which was announced in the final line of a news release.

That's not the only change coming to college sports.

The NCAA will force football players to take more classes in the fall session. It wants to limit the practice of football players taking fewer hours during the season and then loading up on extra classes in the spring and summer to retain their eligibility.

Players who fail to meet the minimum requirements can reduce the suspension to two games if they earn 27 hours in a school year on a semester system or 40 on a quarterly system. But players will only be able to get the reduction once during their college career.

The board also approved a temporary moratorium on the Division I certification process.

In January, NCAA president Mark Emmert asked his staff to review the certification process, which costs nearly $300,000 per school and requires approximately 400 hours of on-campus work. Schools currently going through the process will not be affected by the moratorium.

The board decided to add one new position to the infractions committee staff. The person would assist those who coordinate appeals, and the board has asked the enforcement staff to produce a document that gives schools guidance on cooperating with NCAA investigations.

But it's the new NBA draft rule that will create the most buzz among college athletes.

"I don't know how it can necessarily help a player. It definitely helps the coaches," Howard said. "It's hard for somebody like Coach [Brad] Stevens to have to go out now and recruit a combo guard like Shelvin. But for players, I just don't see how this helps them."