In recent years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has taken several steps to address sportsmanship and ethical behavior by its athletes, particularly in the sport of basketball. It is important that every student-athlete exemplifies certain moral and ethical behavior, including respect, integrity, honesty and responsibility. It is also the responsibility of athletic administrators and the institutions to foster this kind of behavior in their athletes. However, in their zeal to be recruited by a top program, many high school players still make ethical lapses in judgment.
The NCAA is especially concerned with creating a fair opportunity for all prospective and current student-athletes. For example, all student-athletes are prevented from receiving what the Association terms “extra benefits”, or assistance outside of what is customarily received by non-student athletes (NCAA, 2013, p. 43). The NCAA also works to ensure that all student-athletes have the same opportunity with respect to college recruiting activity, and coaches are limited to certain periods when they may recruit (NCAA, 2013, p. 125-26). This also includes the time during which coaches may observe prospective student-athletes practice (NCAA, 2013, p. 125-126). However, this becomes an even greater issue as student-athletes participate in national high school basketball tournaments which are hosted by universities, where athletic staff from the school has unfettered access to the prospects. In the eyes of the NCAA's marketing strategies, this provides these schools with an unfair recruiting advantage over other universities.
Although basketball tournaments are strictly regulated by the NCAA, companies continue to organize and promote these tournaments as a way to make money off of student-athletes and comprise the integrity of the recruitment process. A recent example is that of Bleid Sports, whose tournament was recently canceled by the NCAA (Schrotenboer, 2013, n.p.). Bleid arranged for tournaments to be held at several top basketball colleges, including Louisville and Duke, and the games would feature highly sought-after high school recruits (Schrotenboer, 2013, n.p.). However, the NCAA enforced its bylaw 18.104.22.168 prohibiting colleges from “hosting a non-scholastic basketball practice or competition in which men’s basketball prospective student-athletes.... participate on its campus or at an off-campus facility regularly used by the institution for practice and/or competition by any of the institution’s sport programs” (NCAA, 2013, p. 112). In maintaining the status quo, the prospects were again subject to the same recruiting process as all other prospective student-athletes.
The NCAA, as well as the participating students, had concerns regarding the tournament. The NCAA remains opposed to these types of tournaments on college campuses because of the perceived unfair recruiting advantage provided for hosting schools (Schrotenboer, 2013, n.p.). To alleviate those concerns, the event sponsors could have held the tournaments at another location (specifically away from a university) and avoided violating the very clear NCAA bylaw. The prospective student-athletes and their parents were upset regarding both lost money (in travel arrangements and participant fees) and lost opportunity (Schrotenboer, 2013, n.p.). However, had the families consulted the regulating body regarding any questionable basketball activity, the outcome for the families would have been very different as well.
Most notably, certain aspects of moral and ethical decision making were missing from the decision to both host and participate in the basketball tournament. Under this scenario, the Nine Checkpoints for Ethical Decision-Making may have proven extremely beneficial for each of the actors (Kidder, 2009, p. 181). According to Kidder (2009), these checkpoints allow individuals to systematically analyze an ethical issue, beginning with the identification of the issue and move along to a logical and satisfactory conclusion (p. 181-85). Both the student-athletes and the event sponsors should have employed tools such as the Checkpoints’ “Regulations Test”, and looked to the NCAA for further guidance on this issue (Kidder, 2009, p. 182). Had they done so, the correct ethical conclusion may have been reached.
Given the importance of morality and ethics in high school basketball, it is imperative that a paradigm shift occurs within high school athletics. Not only should the student-athletes and athletic administrators work on their technical skills relating to the game, but they should also work to improve their moral and ethical compass. Making ethical choices regarding individual and team behavior improves the sport for everyone.
Kidder, R. M. (2009). How good people make tough choices. New York: Harper Perennial.
NCAA Academic and Membership Affairs Staff. (2013). 2013-2014 NCAA Division I manual. Indianapolis: National Collegiate Athletics Association.
Schrotenboer, B. (2013, January 3). NCAA faces lawsuit from high school sports promoter. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/highschool/2013/01/02/ ncaa-suit-national-basketball-high-school-tournaments/1805291/