For three Division I coaches, there are no doubts of the integrity problems they currently see in college basketball.
But during a Thursday panel at the Maddox Grand Atrium which included Belmont coach Rick Byrd, Butler coach Brad Stevens, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings and ESPN color commentator Jimmy Dykes, the solutions to those problems may need more than a quick fix.
“We have a culture issue, a culture problem in college basketball,” Stallings said. “Hopefully, it will go back in a way where the word student-athlete means something, where compliance is a reality, not just an ideal.”
Stallings doesn’t think those types of changes will occur during his career and said the NCAA will have to crack down on cheating schools to be effective.
“The only choice the NCAA has is to levy stronger penalties,” Stallings said. “If someone is caught with their hand in the cookie jar, then slam the hand.”
At the same time, Stevens was quick to defend the majority of coaches in the college game and said the coaches one learns can prove to be a major influencer.
“There’s a lot more good than bad, and I’ve always said if I worked as a young coach today, I wouldn’t have worked for anyone different than I did,” Stevens said.
The current 24-hour media environment, the Butler coach said, can also create an environment where the pressure a team faces to succeed never ends.
“There’s a lot that goes on hat allowed for positive, over the top reaction when we’re winning and an even stronger reaction when we’re losing,” Stevens said.
Midway through the roundtable, all four panelists discussed the events leading to the firing of Rutgers coach Mike Rice after videos were released showing him physically and verbally abusing his players. All three coaches said what occurred at Rutgers was unlike any they had ever seen, but thought the videos could be a spark for some level of reform in the sport.
“I hope it wakes up the administrators all across the country, and these practices can be put to rest,” Stallings said.
Dykes said the greatest amount of changes can occur at administrative level through the development of programs and the hiring of staff.
“The quicker college presidents and AD’s get on board with this, then we’ll see improvements with recruiting and how we handle kids today,” Dykes said.
Those culture changes, Byrd said, would have a ripple effect in every aspect of the game.
“It goes to recruiting, scheduling, what we’ve seen on TV recently and how players are treated to try to win basketball games,” he said.