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.