If I were commissioner of college basketball, I would ...
1. Get rid of the play-in game: The NCAA tournament's Tuesday play-in game -- or "opening round" game as the NCAA likes to call it -- was created when the Mountain West Conference formed four years ago, thereby adding a 31st automatic qualifier. Instead of trimming the at-large field by one, the powers that be took a spot away from one of the lower-conference schools that gives the tournament its charm. You can't have an opening round and a first round. I say lose an at-large spot and make the tournament a field of 64 like it ought to be.
2. Prohibit shoe deals for coaches: So let me get this straight: Nike pays Coach K a million-plus so he can force his players to wear the swoosh? Not on my watch. Nike can pony up the dough if it wants, but from now on that scratch goes either to academic endeavors or nonrevenue sports. (Though at Duke, I'd allow football to be classified as a nonrevenue sport.)
3. Get rid of the limit on practices or workout time: I never understood why practice can't begin until Oct. 15. If a coach wants to start practicing in early September and run his players into the ground before the season starts, that should be his prerogative. Nor should there be any limit to the number of hours a coach can work with his player during the offseason.
4. Limit the amount of time TV can show coaches on the sidelines: Sorry, all you itchy-fingered directors. I'm giving you a maximum of 30 seconds total to show pictures of coaches during each game. You'll just have to find something else to put on our screens. (More Ashley Judd would be just fine with the commish.)
5. Ensure that students automatically get the best seats: As far as I'm concerned, all those fat cats can put their fat butts in the upper deck where they belong. The game is played by students, so their peers should sit as close to the court as possible. The kids are a lot louder, too.
6. Provide scheduling privileges to mid-major schools: Every year, I will select 30 teams from outside the BCS conferences and allow each to pick one power-conference school to visit their home gym -- not a neutral site -- during the regular season. The game will be officiated by refs from the mid-major's own conference. Also, for each game a middie wins in the NCAA tournament, it gets to host another high-end opponent the following year. Think George Mason would have fun picking four teams to play at home next season?
7. Set a cap on the number of games officials can work: No more than two games a week for the zebras, and I also get to cap the number of miles they can travel during the course of the season. I've never thought it wise to have so many referees -- whose ranks, let's face it, aren't exactly filled with a ton of Gen-Xers -- can work four or five games a week in different cities. Fewer games and less travel means the refs are better rested. Plus, it would give some younger folks a chance to break in.
8. Decree that every athletic director is allowed to hire only one coach: If a team loses a lot of games, the first thing everyone wants to do is dump the coach. But what about the schmo who hired him in the first place? So unless a coach decides to retire or take another job voluntarily, each AD gets to make one hire per institution. He can still fire a guy if he wants to, but then he has to follow him right out the door.
9. Further decree that presidents must accept pay cuts for major NCAA infractions: This is consistent with my new era of accountability. Over the last decade, presidents have gotten more and more involved in the running of college athletics, but when a program is revealed to be rancid and corrupt, the prez is nowhere to be found. I figure a 50 percent wage reduction for each major no-no ought to help clean things up.
10. Implement the commissioner's choice: Back to school: I realize underclassmen have the right to turn pro and seniors have the right to graduate. But every year, I as commissioner get to select one player who I enjoy watching so much that he must come back and play another year, even if he has exhausted his eligibility. And if I want, I can keep picking the same guy, which means Juan Dixon would have been 26 by the time I let him go. By this point I would have let Dixon go, but let's just say Dee Brown shouldn't start shopping for houses in NBA cities anytime soon.