John Thompson Delivers Best Quote From Latest ’30 for 30′

The latest installment of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series, One and Not Done, examines the career of current Kentucky Wildcats head basketball coach John Calipari. The title is derived from a certain type of player in college basketball who only plays one year at a school, then goes into the NBA draft. This phenomenon has occurred primarily after the NBA passed a rule in 2005 making it so that drafted players had to be at least one year out of high school. Calipari is largely credited in leading the way in getting elite players only wishing to play one year of college basketball before jumping to the professional level. This has made him a controversial figure in the college basketball world.

Most of the documentary reviews Calipari’s beginnings as a head coach and his rise through the ranks of basketball. The “one and done” phenomenon is only introduced and discussed throughout the two hour film’s last half hour. But in the midst of all of the discussions and opinions about the system Calipari has pioneered, one quote stood out as perhaps the truest and most insightful. That quote was from former Georgetown University head coach John Thompson when discussing the departure of many of these players from the ranks of college basketball. After claiming that he wouldn’t like Calipari if he were currently trying to coach against him, Thompson said:

“this whole religious experience that we have about people leaving school. How many people have you heard of, millionaires and billionaires, that dropped out of school and still were successful in life?”

First of all, Thompson’s equating of college with religion is strikingly accurate. In both the American political and social circle, college is exalted to a near religious status. More money for college (provided by government of course) is always good. More kids going to college is always a sign of societal improvement. More college graduates are nothing but a positive for social advancement. Few American institutions are more sacrosanct than that of higher education.

The second part of his quote displays an overwhelming truth as well. That is the fact that many people aside from college basketball players do not need college to become successful. Remarkably wealthy entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Ralph Lauren and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college before receiving a degree. But of course, there isn’t the lamenting over the abrupt departure from college when it comes to these individuals. This is because performing the job that gets them this wealth is not a spectator sport at the amateur level like basketball is. No one was gathering around a television to watch Zuckerberg write algorithms in college (or out of college for that matter). But since college basketball is a wildly popular televised event, many people can’t seem to cease all of the lamenting as to why elite basketball players choose to leave school for a big paycheck rather than stay at a level that doesn’t pay them at all.

Not only is Thompson’s quote accurate, but it’s refreshing to hear someone from his generation embrace the market-driven aspect of these players’ decisions. Thompson is 75 years old and had his heyday as Georgetown’s head coach in the 1980’s. Back then, players were much more likely to stay longer at college than they are today. Patrick Ewing, the best player Thompson ever coached, stayed all four years at Georgetown. It would be unthinkable for a player of his talent to stay at a school that long this day in age. Other coaches from Thompson’s era, like Jim Calhoun and Bob Knight, have been quite critical of “one and done” players. It seems these coaches aren’t content with simply preventing players from getting paid for their skills for just one year.

Of course, for those of us who believe in the freedom of contract and self-ownership, the problem with the “one and done” rule is that it requires those who have reached the age of adulthood to spend at least a year not being able to profit off of the talents that they have. Therefore, there should be no age requirement after a player gets out of high school who has the talent to play a professional sport. All college athletes are barred from receiving any financial compensation for the duration of their college careers. So by preventing athletes from entering the draft for any period of time, the freedom of contract is violated.

So Thompson certainly deserves credit for recognizing that times have changed and those elite basketball players who do leave school early are just responding to the economic incentives that can lure people out of college to pursue any other career. Perhaps if the NCAA and NBA came to accept this fact, athletes considered to be adults by law could be allowed to enter the draft and get compensated for their talents. Either that, or allow college athletes to get paid while competing at the school. But the prevention of these things will only cause those athletes to see greener pastures at the professional level and make the decision to get paid what they are worth.

Ledecky Shouldn’t Have to Choose, But Wealth Makes Choice Possible

Five time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky has passed up the opportunity to become a professional swimmer in order to maintain her amateur status and swim for Stanford University. She was faced with the choice to either cash in on endorsement deals by turning pro or compete collegiately in an elite swimming program while working towards a degree. Estimates are that she could have earned as much as five million dollars annually had she decided against swimming in college. The Olympic champion was still able to collect the prize money given to the game’s medalists.

The NCAA’s prevention of its athletes being able to profit off of their talent is what leads to the choice that Ledecky (and others) have to make. Competing collegiately means the athlete must forgo any endorsement deals that may be offered. In order maintain their claim of amateurism, the NCAA strictly enforces the lack of payment to its athletes despite collecting extraordinary amounts of money from their skill sets. Thus, the money one could get from leaving college and becoming a professional is often too enticing to pass up.

Refusing to compensate athletes through possible endorsements appears to be a detrimental policy for the NCAA. Not only does staying in college to compete in a sport appear to be a risky financial decision, but the American public seems to be embracing the idea of allowing college athletes to receive endorsement money. A 2014 Reason-Rupe poll found that 64% of those surveyed thought that student-athletes should receive money if a college or company sells gear containing their likeness or jersey number. Who or what is ultimately harmed if Ledecky were to be paid by those willing to compensate her for her likeness? Well, other than the NCAA’s increasingly unpopular definition of amateurism of course.

One may wonder why Ledecky left so much money on the table in order to commence a college swimming career that isn’t going to pay her. It may seem like a big risk considering the possibility of injury that is always lurking for all athletes. But looking into Ledecky’s family, it’s clear that the lifestyle she comes from minimizes those risks and makes competing as an amateur much more appealing. Her father, David, is a Washington D.C area attorney who has a B.A. from Harvard and went to law school at Yale. Her uncle, Jon, is one of the owners of the New York Islanders hockey team. For obvious reasons, someone coming from this kind of economic status is better equipped to embrace a choice that emphasizes collegiate amateurism rather than a professional pay day.

Since collegiate swimming receives very little fanfare throughout the country, Ledecky’s decision in this matter was not met with many strong opinions either celebrating or condemning her for it. The game that American sports fans complain about most when it comes to its athletes selecting a professional career over spending time in playing as an amateur is clearly college basketball. There seems to be a collective lamenting throughout the nation after the end of every March Madness when a huge portion of the college basketball elite opt for the NBA over another year at their university. However, it isn’t hard to see why this is the case. College basketball players who are able to become high picks in the NBA draft often come from disadvantaged, urban areas of the country. The payout they would receive from becoming a professional is usually vastly more money than either they or anyone in their family has ever seen before or will ever see again. So can we really expect poor, inner city youths faced with the possibility of million dollar salaries and endorsement deals to make the same economic decision as someone as financially privileged as Ledecky?

All of this makes an excellent case for why college athletes should be able to get paid by their schools and enter into endorsement deals. If the lure of a pro salary is too enticing, then allowing amateurs to collect some money for their talent is a good way to lessen that enticement so that more will choose to return to college. Sadly, the NCAA shows very few signs of adopting this model despite the positives that would likely occur. As of right now, in order to minimize the risk of delaying a professional salary, you need Ledecky-level family money.

 

Ben Simmons Going Number One Shows Absurdity of NBA Age Limit

The NBA’s much anticipated draft night has come and gone. The annual event often provides plenty of surprise and debate over the order of the draftees. But what was certainly not a surprise was the Philadelphia 76ers using their number one overall pick to draft LSU’s Ben Simmons. Not only was Simmons often called the best NBA prospect, but Philadelphia allegedly informed him that they were going to take him with the draft’s top selection.

Simmons ascending to the top draft spot was certainly not unexpected. Even prior to the 2015-2016 college basketball season, many identified him as the year’s most promising choice. He’s been described as having point guard skills in a 6′ 10″ in body. Combine this with his speed and leaping ability and it isn’t hard to see why the NBA’s lottery teams were put on notice all year of the things that he was able to do on the court.

What has become apparent about Simmons’ lone year he played in college is how insignificant it was to his development as a player. If anyone in the NBA didn’t know about his superior skills before the start of the college basketball season, they didn’t have to wait long for those skills to be fully displayed. Certainly Simmons did not need the entire college basketball season to prove that he deserved to be the draft’s number one overall pick. Yet the freshman phenome continued to play throughout the rest of the regular season while putting his body at risk for no salary.

What made Simmons’ case somewhat unusual was that he did not play on an elite or even good team during his one and only year in college. LSU’s basketball team was so bad during the 2015-2016 season that they didn’t even make the 64 team NCAA tournament despite Simmons’ greatness. This is an especially unusual occurrence for such a high profile player considering that they usually gravitate toward the country’s best programs. But this inability to get his team to The Big Dance was apparently not enough to deter the 76ers from making him their selection.

As inconsequential as Simmons’ freshman year at LSU seemed to be, what came off looking even more worthless was the academic undertaking that he experienced at the university. Whereas the actual intelligence of the Tigers’ big man cannot be known, he appeared to be mostly disinterested in furthering any kind of education while at the school. Academics were so ignored by Simmons that he was initially benched by his head coach for most of the first half of a game against Tennessee. At the end of the regular season, it was revealed that he was not eligible for the Wooden Award (given each year to the most outstanding men’s and women’s college basketball player) because he did not meet the minimum requirement of having a 2.0 GPA.

One could make the case that Simmons should have applied himself more on the academic end so that his team would not be hurt by his being benched for nearly a half and so he would be at least eligible for college basketball’s top regular season award. But why was someone like Simmons who was so uninterested in furthering his education put into college in the first place when he has a separate skill (playing basketball) that he did so well? The answer to this question comes in the form of the NBA’s age limit that went into effect before their 2006 draft. As a result of this rule, players no longer could jump directly from high school to the NBA since the age limit said all draftees must be 19 years old and be at least one year out of high school.

If any recent NBA Draft selection demonstrated the absurdity of the league’s age limit, it would be Simmons. Here we have someone who barely even needed college basketball to demonstrate his skills, played on an average team and didn’t benefit from the opportunity to further his education in the slightest. But despite his academic struggles and his team’s mediocrity, Simmons still became the draft’s top pick. Now he will finally get paid for the considerable skills that he has for what he does best.

So what is the solution to avoid a situation like Simmons’ in the future? The NBA should remove its age limit and start developing young players in the Developmental League (D-League) if they aren’t yet ready to play professionally. This way, NBA ready high schoolers who have no interest in furthering their education (like Simmons) could focus more on what is most likely to be their career. If this sounds extreme or unworkable, consider that Major League Baseball does virtually the same thing by drafting players of different ages (including out of high school) and placing them into a minor league system. The NBA would be wise, not to mention fair, to allow promising high school stars the same opportunity that MLB provides. Sadly, this is currently not the case.

 

No Cause for Concern Over Easy Majors for Athletes

It has recently come to the attention of the media that Auburn University reversed an initial decision to eliminate the public administration major from the school’s curriculum in 2013. This reversal came as the result of resistance from Auburn’s athletic department. Apparently, the public administration major is looked down upon by much of the school’s faculty. But it’s popularity among athletes, specifically Auburn’s football team, is what looks to have kept it afloat.

So just how popular is being a public administration major at Auburn? Well, if you’re an athlete, quite popular indeed. Although public administration accounts for less than 1% of the school’s undergraduate student body, 51% of students pursuing this major were Auburn athletes according to 2013 statistics. Among this group were the university’s starting quarterback, running back, leading wide receiver and several starting defensive players. In 2014, 32% of the football team was majoring in public administration.

The reason for having a major like public administration at an elite division one athletic program like Auburn is pretty transparent. The unchallenging nature of the course material usually makes it easier for students athletes who are looking to focus more energy on their sport. According to an internal athletic department memo from 2012, “If the public administration program is eliminated, the [graduation success rate] numbers for our student-athletes will likely decline.”

Some will predictably criticize Auburn (and other similar big conference schools) for continuing to have these kinds of majors. But let’s stop and think about what harm is really being done by this. Are there any real victims in this whole ordeal?

Someone able to play football at Auburn, undoubtedly a great college football program, is clearly among the elite young football players in the country. Odds are, someone good enough to compete on this level is probably better at football than they are at anything else. So if this is the case, shouldn’t someone gifted in this way be able to focus as much energy as possible on the thing that they are best at? If choosing to major in public administration enables these elite football payers to spend more time and effort improving their football abilities, then having this major as an option should be seen as a positive rather than a blemish on Auburn’s academics.

Without the public administration option, some of the school’s football players would be forced to choose more challenging majors. This would lead to less available time for training, practice, weight lifting and all of the other things that can improve the skills of a football player. Thus, the talent of the players and the overall football program at Auburn could suffer. Considering the amount of money Auburn brings in through the success of their football team, this kind of potential decline would indeed be problematic.

Individual players on Auburn’s football team no longer able to major in something like public administration would face more significant roadblocks en route to becoming highly paid professionals. College is supposed to be an institution which prepares someone for a professional career where they can make a living. Taking elite college football players away from improving their talents so that they might become professional football players runs counter to what college is supposed to be about. Especially since the salary of a rookie professional athlete far exceeds virtually any other salary someone could obtain immediately after college.

While it’s certainly true that not all of Auburn’s players will reach the NFL, going to college in general is no guarantee of employment in a field requiring a college degree. According to a careerbuilder.com survey, half of recent college graduates are working in jobs not requiring those degrees. And since less than 1% of Auburn’s students major in public administration (as previously mentioned), it’s not as if a significant portion of undergraduates are being duped into choosing an easy major that teaches them very few skills. Students at the school more or less know what public administration is there for and know enough to avoid majoring in it.

In an ideal world, amateur athletics for all sports would take place independently from colleges and universities. Young aspiring pros would advance through levels just below the professional level which would most likely be controlled by professional teams. This would look very similar to what the minor leagues are to Major League Baseball.

But of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. The NCAA would never let something encroach on its control over athletes prior to becoming professionals. So if easy classes and sham majors are the price we pay for the ability of elite athletes to specialize in what they do best, then so be it. Not only do the athletes benefit, but the university gets to make more money and the students get to watch a more talented football team. Sounds like a win all around.

 

Shame on the NCAA For Not Being More Like the Minor Leagues

Northwestern University Athletics Director Jim Phillips had some strong words for the NBA and its influence over college basketball. While introducing some new ideas that ranged from shortening collegiate athletic seasons, to possibly eliminating freshman eligibility, Phillips then set his sights on college basketball’s “one and done” phenomenon by saying:

“…frankly speaking, shame on us. We have allowed the National Basketball Association to dictate what our rules are or influence what our rules are at the collegiate level. I think they look at us as the minor leagues. Nobody feels good about kids going to a school for a semester and then leaving. That’s absurd.”[1]

Now Phillips is actually correct that the NBA has influenced how basketball operates at the college level. By requiring those entering the NBA draft to be one year removed from high school and be 19 years of age, players good enough to be drafted by a professional team out of high school now have to spend a year elsewhere before this happens. But before this rule was adopted by the NBA (in 2005), elite players often went straight into the league out of high school. Was Phillips equally as worried about the players entering the NBA out of high school and spending zero semesters in college? Something tells me he probably wasn’t.

But the Athletic Director’s remarks deriding how college basketball has turned into “the minor leagues” (I’m assuming he means Minor League Baseball) is especially telling. Implied is that Minor League Baseball is something undesirable and inferior with respect to what the NCAA should desire to be. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you disagree, ask yourself the following questions:

– Does Minor League Baseball prevent its players from profiting off of their talent, imposing penalties like suspensions for infractions while the league itself pockets millions of dollars?

-Did Major League Baseball establish a rule requiring Minor League players to play a fixed amount of time at the Minor League level before being able to play at the Major League level?

-Does Minor League Baseball lie about the importance of their players receiving an education while some are attending fake classes?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. But make no mistake, the NCAA is guilty of every one of them. Neither Jim Phillips, nor any other college’s athletic director, is realistically able to admit this. Therefore, college becoming minor league “esque” is something that can never be virtuous no matter how strongly reality proves otherwise.

So like Northwestern’s AD, I too believe that what the NCAA has done is shameful. But what should have caused that shame was their unwillingness to embrace the Minor League Baseball’s model of allowing their players to engage in methods to profit off of the talent that they have. Hopefully more people will realize that this is the more beneficial and more ethical system for those who are skilled in this particular way.

 

1.  http://thegazette.com/subject/sports/northwestern-ad-shame-on-us-for-allowing-nba-to-shape-eligibility-rule-20150519

How a Lame NCAA Suspension Actually Benefited Todd Gurley

With this year’s NFL draft behind us, many will reflect on the journeys that the draftees took en route to a professional football career. Certainly one of the more unique situations of a highly ranked selection was that of Georgia running back Todd Gurley. The St. Louis Rams took Gurley 10th in the draft, making him just the 3rd running back take with a top ten pick in the last seven years. But this isn’t what makes Gurley’s arrival in the NFL so unusual.

The 2014 college football season couldn’t have started any better for Todd Gurley. After putting up 198 rushing yards and three touchdowns in an opening game demolition against Clemson, he went on to rush for over 100 yards in three of his next four games. Then, a curious thing happened. The NCAA suspended Gurley for four games after it was found out that he had received more than $3,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia. This effectively ended his chances for winning the Heisman Trophy. But this too is not that terribly unusual in the landscape of college athletics.

What makes Gurley’s punishment and draft selection so unique is that the penalty he incurred probably helped him more than it hurt him. Five games into the 2014 season, when the NCAA penalty came down, Gurley had already established himself as arguably the best running back in the country. Sitting out for four games likely didn’t effect where a team would have selected him in the draft (and as mentioned previously, taking a running back with a top 10 pick is unusual these days anyway). In addition, not being able to perform on the field takes away the possibility of serious injury. After Gurley’s dominance was established and NFL teams were aware of his performance level, any further participation on his part (especially at a high risk position like running back) would have increased his chance for serious injury and may have cost him a few spots in the draft. When you’re talking about the draft, slipping a few picks can cost an athlete millions of dollars.

The ironic thing about this whole ordeal is that by punishing Gurley for profiting off of his talent at a place he was not able to do so, the NCAA may have made it easier for him to profit off that talent at a place where he is able to do so (the NFL). Competing in a violent sport after already establishing yourself as the best amateur at your position is a risky bet with little reward. So the NCAA’s suspension of Gurley actually came at a very opportune time. Now he will be receiving a contract befitting a top ten NFL pick (not to mention endorsement deals) and his four game suspension is something of a distant, inconsequential memory. The incompetence of the NCAA seems to be on full display as their attempt to penalize someone whose only crime was profiting off his name completely backfired.

The Irrelevance of College Basketball in Developing NBA Talent

With college basketball’s conference championship tournaments in full swing and Selection Sunday approaching, an inevitable comment will be made at some point during March Madness. This comment, which will likely come from a studio commentator or broadcaster (last year it was Charles Barkley, who I otherwise enjoy listening to), will advocate for more basketball players to stay in college to work on their game. Unfortunately, many people hearing the comment will agree with whichever television personality utters it. The reason that this is unfortunate is because there is virtually no evidence that staying in college for the purpose of improving as a basketball player is a more effective option than trying to improve in the NBA or elsewhere. Those who believe college has a monopoly on player improvement have been badly misled or are lying to themselves.

First, let’s discuss a little background on this issue. In 1995, Kevin Garnett became the first high school player to enter the NBA Draft in 20 years. From then until 2005, 39 different players were drafted by the league out of high school. Negotiations began in 2005 between the league and the NBA players’ union on the proposal of a new age limit. The league wanted an age limit of 20, while the players’ union did not want the age limit to be changed at all. In July of that year, the two sides compromised to require draft entrants to be 19 and spend at least one year out of high school before draft eligibility. However, players are not required to spend that year in college.

The introduction of this new age limit has often caused top level talent in college to only spend one year there before leaving the school for the NBA. This phenomenon is often called being a “one and done” player. The frequency of these “one and done” players has become unpopular and controversial to the point that some, including new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, have supported the league once again attempting to raise the minimum age requirement to 20. But what is the motivation for an elite player choosing to leave college after just one season? Well, the obvious answer would of course, be money. But the better question would be: what is the motivation in wanting those elite players to play in college longer?

One of the claims made by the proponents of requiring a lengthened stint in college is that playing at the collegiate level better enables a player to improve his skills. To believe this, one would have to conclude that improving as a player is somehow exclusive to those who play college basketball. Anyone who even remotely follows NBA Basketball should know that this isn’t true. After all, were high school draftees like the aforementioned Garnett and Kobe Bryant All Stars in their first season? No, they were not. In addition, the NBA’s Most Improved Player award has gone to a player drafted out of high school three times (Tracy McGrady in 2001, Jermaine O’Neal in 2002 and Monta Ellis in 2007) and a player only playing one year of college ball once after the new age limit was imposed (Kevin Love in 2011). Clearly NCAA Basketball does not have a monopoly on player development.

College basketball’s advocates somehow ignore how often the best NBA players are those who spent the least amount of time possible playing elsewhere before entering the professional level. From 1995-2005, players entering the draft out of high school accounted for three MVP award winners (Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James) and seven more who made at least one All Star Game (Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Rashard Lewis, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum). Since the age limit change, the best players are often now the ones who just play one year in college before entering the draft. From the 2006 draft to the present, players waiting the minimum amount of time before turning pro have accounted for two MVP winners (Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant) and five more who have made at least one All Star Game (Kevin Love, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis). Certainly a lack of exposure to the college game did not hold any of these athletes back from becoming an elite player.

Recent NBA history is littered with examples of players achieving success despite limited or no college and other players who succeeded during a lengthy stint in college having underwhelming professional careers. Perhaps the best example of this was during the 2004 Draft where the two best big men were Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor. The size of the two players and the position they played were very similar (Howard is listed as an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier. Both were built as if someone had engineered them in a lab somewhere). However, the contrast between the collegiate careers of the two men could not have been more different. Howard, of course, had no collegiate career. He came into the NBA directly out of a private high school in Atlanta and was considered to be a “raw” talent. Meanwhile, Okafor had spent three years at the University of Connecticut which culminated with a National Championship victory and the award for the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

The Orlando Magic’s decision to draft Howard over Okafor with the number one draft pick was met with harsh criticism. Howard was almost an unknown whereas Okafor had succeeded on the biggest collegiate stage possible. During each player’s rookie season (2004-2005), it looked like the critics may have had a point. Howard did average a respectable 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. But Okafor averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds while picking up Rookie of the Year honors. Since this initial season though, a different story has emerged. Okafor never went on to average as many points as he did during his rookie campaign (mostly due to injury). He never made an All Star Team or any of the All NBA Teams. Conversely, Howard turned himself into one of the best big men of his generation. He made five All NBA first teams, won three Defensive Player of the Year awards and took his team to the 2009 NBA Finals. So much for Okafor’s college development making any difference at all when it came to competing at the NBA level.

As I mentioned earlier, the age limit that the league adopted in 2005 does not actually require a draftee to play college basketball. As a result, playing somewhere other than college remains and option. But how beneficial would playing somewhere else (like overseas) be to an aspiring future NBA player coming out of high school? Fortunately there is a recent example we can use to assess the possible benefits of this option. Rather than playing college basketball as an 18 year old, Brandon Jennings (one of the top high school prospects in the country coming out of high school in 2008) decided instead to go to Italy and play in the Euroleague. He then decided to enter the NBA draft a year later in 2009, when he was first eligible. Although Jennings isn’t a superstar, he was one of the best guards in his draft class and made the All-Rookie First Team in 2010. He has averaged a solid 16.6 points and 6.2 assists per game for his career and is still only 25. Perhaps skipping college is not such a bad move after all.

Despite all of the previously mentioned evidence that indicates the insignificance of college level player development, many still will not let go of their desire for an increase of the NBA age limit. So why is this the case? One of the reasons advocates give for an increased age limit centers on education. They make the claim that their desire to have college basketball players get an education is the source of their push for an age limit increase. Wanting someone to become better educated can certainly be a virtuous cause. But when it is claimed as motivation for increasing the NBA draft’s age limit, ulterior motives are almost always in play. If it really were the case that the supporters of a 20 year age limit cared so much about elite athletes getting an education, they would apply the same logic to elite athletes in other sports who attempt to turn professional rather than going to or staying in college.

A great example of a sport that shows this inconsistent philosophy is baseball. Often times the top level of high school baseball players choose to enter the Major League Baseball draft rather than attend college. In fact, in last year’s MLB draft, four out of the top six players taken were out of high school rather than college. But do you ever hear anyone lamenting over how horrible it is that great young baseball players are choosing against going to college and are entering the draft instead? If the number one baseball prospect coming out of high school this year (I looked it up, his name is Brendan Rodgers) chooses to enter the draft instead of going to college (and I’m sure he could go play wherever he wanted being the number one prospect in the nation), do you hear any complaining from the pro-college crusaders? But why not? Both a player entering the MLB draft out of high school and a player entering the NBA draft, either out of high school (when that was possible), or after just one year of college, are choosing the prospect of a professional sports career over being a student athlete. So why all of the crying into the night about basketball players taking this path, while baseball players taking the same path produce the sound of crickets?

The answer to the aforementioned question can be found in the love that people have for the game of college basketball. I’ve met many basketball fans throughout my life who enjoy college basketball more than NBA basketball. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a baseball fan who enjoyed college baseball more than Major League Baseball. The desire that people have in raising the NBA’s minimum age limit is really about keeping better players in college in order to improve the quality of play that the college game experiences. Since hardly anyone watches or cares about college baseball, elite players playing elsewhere and not improving the collegiate quality of play is of no one’s concern.

So I would encourage the proponents of raising the NBA’s age limit to be honest above all else. Stop telling us that a basketball player who develops his game in college is better off than one who does his developing in the NBA. It clearly isn’t true. Stop telling us that you are so concerned with young elite athletes becoming educated in college. If that were the case, then you would care about elite athletes in every sport getting a college education, not just basketball. In order to truthfully advocate for an NBA age limit increase, do so by telling us this:

“I love college basketball so much that I want to force players who are talented enough to become professionals, to remain at the collegiate level so that the college game becomes better than it would otherwise be.”

Somehow that doesn’t have as much of a ring to it as a developmental or pro-educational argument.