In completely un-shocking news, the NCAA has been encouraged to make even worse rules than they already have in place. The Commission on College Basketball, a 14-member commission formed in result to the FBI investigation last fall into college basketball recruiting, has recommended several changes to the current NCAA model. The main focus of this report centers around the NBA’s One-and-Done rule, a rule nearly everyone agrees is no longer working the way it was intended.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a news conference today in Indianapolis, Indiana detailing a 60-page report the Commission released to the NCAA. Rice stated, “One-and-done has to go, one way or another.” She mentioned if the NBA and NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) does not do away with the One-and-Done rule, the Commission will discuss other alternatives, such as “freshman ineligibility, or locking-up scholarships for three or four years if a kid leaves after one season. Basically, the Commission is claiming they are interested in doing what is best for the student-athletes, but they will make the student-athlete ineligible if the NBA does not change their rule. This begs the question, if the goal is to help the kids make the best choice for them, why are you going to attempt to punish them if the adults do not change the way they operate? We will revisit this part of the topic later.
The biggest issue with where the Commission starts is, the One-and-Done is in no way controlled by the NCAA! They are simply demanding the NCAA do something about a rule they have no control over. On top of that, they are saying they will look deeper into more rules that will actually hurt the colleges and their student-athletes if something is not done to change the rule the NCAA has no control over.
It is common knowledge that 18-year olds should be able to enter the NBA Draft right out of high school. There is a segment of young men who are ready to make that jump and have successful careers. While there will continue to be ones who do not work out, there is no avoiding it. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t pan out to be the player scouts think they will be when they are 18. We continue to underestimate how difficult it is to project what kind of basketball player, or even person, a young man will be at age 25-30 based on who they are at age 18. Simply put, mistakes happen, but, these young men deserve the opportunity.
Rice states, “we must separate the collegiate track from the professional track by ending the one-and-done.” Again we have a tone deaf take on the issues surrounding the rule. In the words of our beloved Coach Cal, this is their genius. This is what is going to change their lives. Doing away with the One-and-Done is not going to stop kids from leaving college early to enter the NBA Draft. It will change the amount of student-athletes who leave after one year, but it will not end the discussion.
An interesting aspect of this discussion which is brought up by Rice is that players who have no interest in a college degree should not be forced to go to college. I believe this is something we can all agree on. Some players do not have interest in college and would not be here if they were not required to. That is the fact we need to be focusing on. That, along with the fact there are players who are ready for the NBA at 18 years old, is where this discussion needs to start and end. It has nothing to do with the value of the degree or the integrity of our higher education system. Kids go to college to get a job and make a career for themselves. High profile athletes are doing just that. No they are not always graduating and using the knowledge they learned in the classroom, but they are learning valuable skills which will help them in their professional careers.
A lot of time is spent talking about the importance of a college degree and how “the college degree is the real ticket to financial security for most student-athletes.” While that is true, it is also true that most student-athletes are not going straight to the professional level and are not part of the One-and Done culture. There is a small group of men’s college basketball student-athletes who are leaving school after one year to pursue a professional career. That being said, the last time I checked, it has worked out pretty well for the likes of Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Karl Anthony-Towns, John Wall, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. Most of those players, Towns and Booker being the exceptions, did not need to be in college in the first place. They could have joined the NBA at 18 years old and had just as much success. Needless to say, the rule we are talking about does not apply to “most student-athletes”, like Rice and the Commission are focusing on. This argument is entirely outdated. As mentioned above, college is about getting a job. We are past the days where a kid needs to go to college, get a specific degree and go get a job. There are countless more options now and students have the ability to explore them at their own will. For these young men, they want to explore the option of basketball.
Now it is time to dive in to the idea of freshman ineligibility and/or locking up scholarships if a player leaves school early. Yes, you heard that right. The Commission wants the NCAA to punish a school if a player leaves school early to pursue a professional career. Now, we all know the NCAA has some RIDICULOUS rules. However, this one might just take the cake if it ever becomes reality. Spoiler alert, it won’t. The idea of holding scholarships away from a school for recruiting and developing players is honestly unacceptable. Whether people, like those on this Commission, want to accept it or not, college athletics is a major part of our society and a major opportunity for everyone involved.
Freshman ineligibility will only hurt those kids. College athletics are a way for large amounts of young people to get out of bad situations. They are able to escape poverty and go somewhere where they have the opportunity to learn in and outside of the classroom. Without being eligible their freshman season, it is safe to assume a lot of these kids would never entertain the idea of going to college. College remains an opportunity to drastically change your life, and it is important that we continue to provide that opportunity to those who need it.
On the flip side, the Commission actually recommended something beneficial to the student-athlete and the school. Shocking, I know. It is recommended that student-athletes be able to go through the entire draft process and still return to school if they are not drafted. Too often student-athletes chase their dreams and fall short of being one of the 60 picks in the NBA Draft. Why not allow them to come back to school if they are not picked? It is really a lot simpler than anyone tries to make it. Student-Athletes should be allowed to make money on their name and their image. This is not something the Commission dives into deeply at this time, but it remains important. As anyone in Kentucky knows, once these kids declare to go pro, they go on autograph tours and make money. That would not be allowed as the current NCAA format, even if they let the kids come back after the draft. These are other simple changes that even the Commission does not think need to be taken at this time.
While there are some good pieces to this overall report, the Commission, and ultimately the NCAA swung and missed big time when it comes to how to address the One-and Done rule. The rule needs to be fixed, but punishing the student-athletes and the schools if the rule is not fixed, is clearly not the answer. If this is the best work this group of people can do, it may be time to look for some new members.