The Prime Time League was created in 1987 so members of the Iowa men’s basketball team could play games in a more structured environment during the summer.
The league has given members of the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team the same opportunity, but that’ll change this summer.
Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson has decided against having his players participate in the PTL because of time constraints.
The NCAA passed new legislation that increases the amount of practice time student-athletes can spend with their college coaches during the summer. College coaches now can work with their players four days a week.
Prime Time League director Randy Larson said Jacobson was concerned that playing in the PTL would be too time consuming when combined with the additional supervised workouts.
“They just felt like they were piling too much on the guys,” Larson said. “(Ben) said, ‘I just feel terrible going back on my word.’ I said, ‘Don’t feel that way at all Ben.’ Your responsibility is to your players. You’ve got to do what’s best for them and your program and the university.
“If this rule makes you feel like you can’t take the time, I wish I could move the league to where it was closer for you. But I just can’t due to my schedule, and I wouldn’t want to make the Iowa guys drive, either.”
Larson did not think the Panther players were being taken out in retaliation for the end of the annual series with Iowa.
Even without the Northern Iowa players, Larson thinks the 26th season of the Prime Time League will be highly competitive.
He has cut the number of teams from six to four in order to compensate for the loss of the Northern Iowa players and to assure that the games will stay competitive.
Each of the four teams will have two current Iowa players and likely two former Iowa players on the roster, along with at least one of Iowa’s five incoming recruits.
“It will actually be slightly better the level of competition or the level of talent in the league per team,” Larson said.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery signed five high school seniors in November and all five are expected to play in the PTL this summer, according to Larson. The class, which includes 7-foot-1 center Adam Woodbury from Sioux City and 6-1 point guard Mike Gesell from South Sioux City, Neb., is widely regarded as a top-30 class nationally.
Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff also told Larson that he wants to play in the PTL this summer if he’s still in the area. The 6-foot-8 Uthoff, who graduated from Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School, is deciding where he wants to transfer after spending his freshman season with the Badgers. Uthoff is expected to choose between, Iowa, Creighton, Iowa State, Marquette and possibly Florida.
Larson said he spoke with the Iowa coaches and they agreed that cutting back the number of PTL games to seven this summer would be beneficial. The games will be played mostly on Sundays, but there will be two Tuesday sessions beginning with the opening night June 19. All the games will be played in the air-conditioned North Liberty Community Center.
Larson said Jacobson hasn’t ruled out bringing his players back to the PTL after this summer.
Northern Iowa is coming off its most successful decade in the history of the program and Larson feels the PTL has helped to elevate the program.
“I don’t think it’s totally a coincidence that UNI and Iowa basketball have kind of been on a level playing field for the last many years,” Larson said. “I don’t think UNI guys are intimidated by the Iowa guys because they get to know them as teammates and competitors and adversaries for the summer.
“I think the Prime Time League has probably helped UNI every bit as much as it’s helped Iowa if not more so. So I think it’s something that the UNI guys are going to miss. But on other hand, I know they’re not going to miss 10 hours of driving back and forth every week.”
As for new practice rule, Larson thinks it’s another example of the NCAA trying to eliminate summer basketball leagues.
“The NCAA just doesn’t want offseason basketball by anybody other than the college programs that they control,” Larson said.