When Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski talks, you listen. And this week, the former Duke coach had much to say in a sit-down interview with Field of 68’s Rob Dauster and Jeff Goodman, wherein he blasted the NCAA for what he believes is a lack of leadership, bemoaned the structural guidance of the NIL era and more.
For years, Krzyzewski — even dating back to when he was a coach — has pointed to the NCAA and its leadership (or lack thereof, to be more specific) as a key factor in why college hoops is where it is today and why it isn’t more strongly positioned. His stance on that has not changed in retirement. His belief on where leadership is lacking has evolved, though, with the emergence of name, image and likeness rules seemingly top-of-mind for him as a sore spot the sport needs to address.
“Who can explain NIL? A lot of people can explain it, but you’d have different explanations,” he said. “There should be one explanation. And we should have it, obviously. It’s a free market right now. And in a free market, there’s also free interpretation. In order to bring this all back in, it’s going to be very difficult, because how are you going to tell people they can’t do what they’ve been doing?”
Compounding the issue he sees in NIL and how it is interpreted, Krzyzewski also sees that enforcement of the rules is a separate but nonetheless significant issue as well. Not only does the free market lend itself to free interpretation, as he puts it, but it has led to a pay-for-play free-for-all, he believes.
“It’s not led,” Krzyzewski said on the state of college basketball. “So any organization that’s not led has a chance — not a chance, it’s going to go in a lot of directions, and have a lot of different views and what it means, what to do. There’s no leadership. With all the conferences changing, the world has really changed in the last few years, and it begs for leadership. We used to have it from the conference commissioners. But they’re all competing against one another. So there’s not solidarity. For this there has to be common ground.”
The NIL era has opened the door for players to finally cash in on their likeness through endorsement deals and other compensation commensurate with their market value. (And the numbers being tossed around are eye-popping, if you read the great Candid Coaches series piece from Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander.) How players can get paid, though, is still a gray area, and to Krzyzewski, no definitive structure and no guidance has quickly changed the market. No one, he believes, is working with the same rules, and each program is operating within its own bubble doing what is best for it and not for its respective conference — much less for the betterment of the sport.
“Look, it’s pretty much pay for play right now,” he continued. “They don’t want to say that, but it is. More power to them. But how is it equitable? In the NBA, NFL, they all have the same rules, they have a salary cap. Can that ever be done in college?”
“If you wanted a meeting, who would even you bring to the meeting?” said Krzyzewski, again highlighting the void in leadership and the hurdles needed to tackle current issues within college athletics. “You have to have someone in charge of the meeting. Leadership is the most important thing in this. So who is the leader? Is it the NCAA? I don’t think football thinks that. So, what the hell?”