Once upon a time basketball players could opt for the NBA upon completing high school. In fact, some of the game’s biggest stars: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James took exactly that route to the NBA.
But back in 2006 the NBA instituted a new policy, one that prevented teams from selecting players directly out of high school. Now, those eligible for the NBA draft must be at least 19-years-old and one year removed from high school.
And while the NBA is calling the change a success, the world of college basketball as an amateur sport has taken yet another step backward. The rule change has led to a posse of players opting for college without the slightest intent to earning a degree, a move that further makes a mockery of the NCAA’s position that these individuals are somehow to be described as student-athletes.
The problem with the rule has been on full display in two high profile situations, that of now NBA guards O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose. Both previously would have opted for the NBA directly out of high school but could not under the 2006 rule.
So they went to school, sort of, for the one year they were required to do so before bolting. In the meantime, reports have it that about $30,000 in cash and benefits went to Mayo so that he would make his one and done choice the University of Southern California while Rose may have found some other person to take his SAT test to gain entry to Memphis.
Clearly these young men had little to gain from attending any respective school. The concept makes a mockery of the term but unfortunately the money and the publicity that goes with even one year of tournament prowess will continue to reek havoc on college athletic departments.
Alan Hauser, president of the Faculty Athletics Representative Association says it best:
“A university is a place for education, not for merely showing off athletic wares and then leaving. That makes it like a minor league sport where a (player) reads a book now and then.”
In true terms, these athletes are committing to just one semester, the fall, then bolting before earning a single spring credit. Because there is no real reason for a young man to develop a tie to a school or institution, there is no real investment by the student. And without investment, there is far less reason to abide the rules set forth by the NCAA.
Of one and done, Arizona’s athletic director Jim Livengood had this to say.
“It becomes disruptive for the individual. It becomes disruptive for the team. And the biggest thing, in my opinion, is it really becomes disruptive for the institution, for your faculty, for your administration. We’re really doing a disservice to our institutions, to our programs and to the young person. I’m not smart enough to figure it out, but there’s got to be a better way.”
NBA Wanted Two Years
At the time the rule was enacted, the NBA wanted a two-years-out-of-high-school rule. But they could not get it past the players’ association.
So they settled for what they could get, one year. There is little doubt the NBA stills see the step as a positive one even if two years had been better.
But had the NBA some interest in how the rule would impact colleges, they would have sought to match baseball’s rule. Baseball players, once in college, are committing to playing at that level for three years before being eligible to be drafted.
At least those athletes have to develop some academic track record to be eligible to play ball for their school. Instead the NBA only asked for two years and settled for one.
The unwillingness of the NBA to seek to do what is best for both parties’ interest is particularly troubling given that the NCAA has become the real farm system for professional basketball.Meanwhile, the NCAA, under the guise that it promotes amateur athletics, is now caught in the crosshairs of yet another bow and quiver that further splits the terms student and athlete.
Yet, in an amazing perspective, NCAA President Myles Brand sees great benefit in the rule.
Of the notion that kids must now attend college first before opting for the NBA, Brand states: “hundreds, maybe even thousands, of young men each year who are now taking their high school studies more seriously rather than thinking, ‘I can blow off high school and go right into the NBA.’ That’s going to put them in good stead for their lives.”
Of the negatives of one and done, Brand goes on to add:
“I think it misses the point about what’s really important: the value of the education that (other) young men (are getting) even if a few game the system.”
Brand is clearly deluding himself if he thinks the rule is having such an impact on that number of high school kids. And the idea that athletes are getting any real educational value from one partial semester of college goes beyond being simply an enormous stretch.
But given that the NCAA is now a big business and big money, there is no other position that Brand could take. Otherwise, we would see more Brandon Jennings, those athletes who say to hell with giving some school a year of their potential earnings and opt to play overseas.
One has to wonder what such actions might do in the long run to the billion dollar industry that was once the home of amateur athletes.
So we continue forward with one and done and the absurd notion that the NCAA is about promoting academics as well as athletics.
Flickr photo courtesy of shundaroni.