NORTH LIBERTY — A new NCAA rule that allows basketball coaches to instruct current players up to two hours a week each summer has sent the Prime Time League a bit sideways.
Northern Iowa men’s basketball coach Ben Jacobson said Monday his program will not participate in the summer basketball league. Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery asked PTL Director Randy Larson to limit the game nights, which was sliced to seven from 11. Larson also cut the number of teams from six to four.
It’s quite a change for the PTL, which enters its 26th season. The league offers players located within a 100-mile radius a chance to play organized basketball. The NCAA-sanctioned league includes mostly college players as well as local professionals.
Larson said he understands why UNI left but added that he thinks they will regret it.
“I would never try to give Ben any advice, but I think they’ll miss it,” Larson said. “I think the players will miss being able to go head-to-head with guys that were more highly recruited than they were. I don’t think it’s all coincidence that they been on a level playing field the last 15 years, because I think they do get over that factor of playing against a bigger school. I think it’s helped UNI as much as it’s helped Iowa.”
Jacobson said Monday the PTL was a “positive experience” and he “put a lot of thought into it.” But the combination of driving more than an hour one way to play and the additional summer instruction caused him to pull his program from the PTL.
“The guys have a lot going on,” Jacobson said. “This year with the new NCAA rule, we’ve now got two hours a week to work with the guys as we do in the fall and the spring. It just adds another thing to the mix. So between their schoolwork and work in the weight room, the individual work that they do, us now grabbing them for two hours a week, I decided we’re going to give it a shot with keeping the guys in town and not having them make the trip down.
“I’ll evaluate it after the summer and see how things play out during the season.”
Jacobson laughed when asked if Iowa’s decision to end the schools’ home-and-home basketball series impacted UNI’s departure.
“I can tell you that didn’t factor my decision,” Jacobson said. “It didn’t factor at all.”
Larson hopes Jacobson reconsiders for next year like the UNI women’s program previously did.
“A year or so later their players said ‘We’ve got to play,’” Larson said. “‘We love them playing,’ and they came back. I hope that’s what will happen with the UNI men.”