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