New rule to fix one-and-done illogical

first_imgThe one-and-done problem in college basketball is one of the hallmarks of the highly dysfunctional National Collegiate Athletic Association. The NCAA has tried to define itself as an amateur sports organization, distinct from the numerous professional leagues in the sports world. But the one-year gap between high school and professional basketball only blurs the line between professional and amateur; it is by no means a fine line.A recent proposal floating around different NCAA conferences could potentially make that separation more clear. Under current NCAA rules, basketball players must be at least 19 years old, out of high school for at least one year and play one full season in college before being eligible to enter the draft. Several college conferences are proposing that players be automatically ineligible to play during their first season in college. They would then need to play one full season before they could declare for the draft after their second year in college.The purpose behind the idea is well intentioned. It would force student athletes to take the “student” part much more seriously. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the rule could have some unintended consequences.Under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, high school stars cannot declare for the draft right out of high school, but can play professionally overseas for a year before entering the draft. Though the NCAA offers better competition and better exposure than the top European professional leagues, some might find the professional contracts worth more than the college scholarships.Additionally, a lot of players who wouldn’t declare for the draft anyway would be ruled ineligible for their first year. Players who would normally graduate in four years could drag out their college career to five years, and players graduating after the normal four years would miss out on an opportunity to play for a year.Viewing these different outcomes together begs the question of what the purpose or value of college athletics really is. The answer varies depending on whom you ask, and maybe the better question is what the purpose or value of college athletics should be.For the select few who are taken in the NBA draft, college basketball is really just a roadblock in front of a long-term career. Even then, only a fraction of them can turn basketball into a career.In those few cases, it would make sense for players to declare for the draft as soon as possible. Athletes like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James went to the NBA right after high school, and it was probably in the best interest of their career that they did. They were ready to play at the highest level right out of high school, they avoided the chance of any injuries in college derailing their professional earning potential and they started making that money right away. Especially for someone coming from a low-income background, that one-to four-year gap between high school and signing the first professional contract can be a big deal for the player and the player’s family.So why not let players declare for the draft right out of high school? As John Calipari — the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats infamous for being the most successful at capitalizing on one-and-done recruits — pointed out, we as a society seem to glorify the business innovators or tech industry giants like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg who drop out of college to go right into their professional careers.Yet there is an obvious paternalistic stigma within the NCAA, as it requires players to “educate” themselves for at least a year before they can go off and make decisions for themselves in the real world. The proposed one-year sit out  rule is another step in that direction. In fact, it’s based on the premise that college freshmen need a year to adjust to the academic load before they can handle the travel and practice time commitments.The cynical side of me can also smell some blatant self-interest on the part of the NCAA. The longer star athletes spend playing college ball instead of jumping right away to pros, the more exciting and marketable the NCAA’s product.The rules and regulations become even more strenuous on the football side. Players have to stay in college three years before they can declare for the NFL draft and cash out on their playing careers. With the physical nature of football, that three-year gap becomes even more crucial as the probability of career-ending injuries becomes even higher.These limitations on employment opportunity seem fishy in the context of our capitalist, free market economy. The NBA and NFL are both very large employers, and the players who make up both of those leagues are all autonomous individuals willingly employed by franchises within the leagues. Plenty of employers require applicants to have a college degree, but it doesn’t take one of those to throw a football or shoot a basketball — if only I could major in zone defense strategy with a minor in 3-point shooting. Instead, each organization has an arbitrary age requirement, which is also legal in hiring practices, but the requirements appear to be irrational.There is the other side of the coin, though. If you are picking up a copy of this newspaper, you obviously value a college education to some degree. The non-cynical side of me sees a lot of value in the current NCAA model because it gives lots of people a chance at an education when they otherwise wouldn’t have one.But ultimately, the one-year sit out rule seems insufficient at accomplishing the objective of improving the educational experience for future NBA draft picks. The proposed rule doesn’t say anything about the practice time, weight lifting or even travel schedule of “ineligible” players. If we really wanted to make it easier for students to do well in the classroom, the NCAA should reduce the number of hours coaches across every conference can organize team activities rather than reduce the autonomy of athletes to make decisions about their own careers.Luke Holthouse is sophomore majoring in policy, planning and development and broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Holthouse Party,” runs on Wednesdays.last_img read more