Both the NBA and the NCAA Want to Keep Athletes in College for Too Long

The organizations want to make players wait an extra year before they can go pro.



Eras aren't what they used to be. Anthony Davis, the fabulously talented 6'10'' forward of the Kentucky Wildcats national championship team, an era was just one season. Davis and probably two of his "one-and-done" freshman teammates will be bolting for the NBA. On Draft Day, Thursday, June 28, Davis—by consensus the year's best college basketball player—forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and point guard Marcus Teague will head for the pros, and a new batch of blue-chip studs recruited by Kentucky coach John Calipari for the sole purpose of playing just one year will be poised to take their places.

The NBA has a rule that requires players to be 19 years old or have completed one year of college before becoming eligible for the NBA Draft. The rule was instituted in 2007, a delayed reaction to LeBron James having skipped college altogether and gone straight from high school to the pros in 2003, proving that for the truly elite players the transition was not hard.

The NCAA, though, and the NBA don't like the idea of players skipping college ball and want to do something about it. Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA and the latest wet blanket to be dropped on college sports by its ruling body, sat on a panel discussion just before the start of the NCAA tournament and said, "I happened to dislike the one-and-done rule enormously and wish it didn't exist. I think it forces young men to go to college who have little or no interest in going to college."

I hate to take a cynical note on this, but I don't think Emmert or anyone else in the NCAA really cares about young men going to college—or at least attending college classes. I think what they care about is whether or not these young men play college basketball, and I think what they would like is to have the NBA's cooperation in doing anything they can to keep boys playing college basketball for as long as they can.

The simple reality is that most basketball and football players who wind up in the pros had little or no interest in going to college in the first place. They want to be first in line for the professional drafts that will take them away from the world of amateur sham, very reasonably wanting their talents to produce revenue for themselves and their families instead of university athletic departments. Now, when the boys are in the best position to make that pay for them, colleges pretending to show some concern.

"It makes a travesty," said Emmert, "of the whole notion of student as an athlete." One might call that poetic justice since for nearly a century colleges have been making a travesty of the notion of athlete as student.

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Allen Barra writes about sports for the Wall Street Journal and His next book is Mickey and Willie--The Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age.

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