Change would benefit U hoops

A proposal would allow the Gophers to replace scholarship players who transfer.

A proposed NCAA rule change would allow Minnesota’s men’s basketball team to sign two more recruits for next year.

Under current NCAA rules, each team has a cap of 13 scholarships, but cannot give out more than five in one year or eight in a two-year period. If the new rule is approved, the cap would remain intact, but teams would be able to replace the scholarships of players who transfer.

The NCAA Board of Directors will vote on the plan April 29. If approved, the change would take effect immediately.

Minnesota has already issued five scholarships for this recruiting season, giving the team a total of 11 scholarship players for next year. The new rule would allow the team to fill its two unused scholarships this year, assistant men’s basketball coach Vic Couch said.

The team plans to use both additional scholarships this year, if the rule is changed, Couch said.

“If you can get the scholarships, it behooves you to use them,” he said. “There’s no need to not use them, if you have them.”

The additional scholarships could help the team replace four scholarship players leaving the team this year, Couch said. Aliou Kane and Stan Gaines will transfer, Moe Hargrow already left for Arkansas and Kris Humphries declared himself eligible for the NBA draft.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said men’s basketball coach Dan Monson should try to sign junior college players, because they will have the biggest immediate impact.

“I do know we had some high school kids who had committed,” Maturi said. “I think those were fine when you were going to bring them into a program gradually, but when you need kids to play instantly, I think this is obviously a time to look at some junior college transfers.”

Most top-rated high school players have already signed with other programs, Maturi said.

But Couch said coaches will seek the two best players they can find.

“I think with those two (scholarships) – because they’re, in a sense, free – you just look for two players that fit, whether it be high school players or junior college players,” he said.

Minnesota will have to compete with other programs also gaining scholarships, including Kansas, where three players announced this week they plan to transfer, Couch said.

NCAA President Myles Brand said the new rule would also seek to reward academically strong athletics programs, while punishing poor ones.

The NCAA currently uses graduation rates to assess academic success, Brand said.

The average graduation rate in NCAA Division I men’s basketball is 42 percent, Brand said.

Maturi does not know the rate at Minnesota, but said it is “one of the lowest in the nation,” largely because of the 1999 academic scandal.

The new plan would rely on a retention rate, and would factor in whether transfers graduated at their subsequent institutions.

Couch said he does not expect the new rule to have much impact at Minnesota.

“I think our goal here at the University of Minnesota is to graduate kids, and that’s what we strive for, without regard to (scholarship) rules,” he said.