Proposing the Kentucky Rule: Bench the Age Floor, Make Freshmen Ineligible
Now that four Kentucky freshmen, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton are all officially leaving college after just six months on campus for the NBA, isn't it time that serious fans of basketball start to call the one-and-done rule what it is -- a colossal failure? Since 2006, when the NBA implemented its age floor, no more than two players have ever left one school after a single season. Many fans mistakenly vent their anger at the NCAA for this rule, which is misguided. The NCAA has no actual power to govern how the NBA's age eligibility restrictions work. So if you're upset with the one-and-done rule, you should be angry at the NBA.
For doing what no sports league should be able to do in my opinion, keep an 18-year-old from making a living in whatever profession he's good enough to make a living in.
But if you're a fan, shouldn't you be troubled by the fact that college basketball has the worst pro rules of all collegiate sports leagues? By the fact that players on college campuses are making a mockery of the term student-athlete -- since when does 12 hours of class in the fall semester and then dropping out in the spring classify you as a student? In fact, I'm so sick of this system that I've got a radical solution for the NCAA: make all freshmen basketball players ineligible.
Bang, in one fell swoop, you return the power to the college game and cut the legs out from underneath the NBA.
Players don't want to come sit on college campuses for a year waiting to play?
Fine, they can ply their trade in other ways. Pull a Brandon Jennings and go overseas. (As an aside, would you really doubt that Jennings gained more maturity playing in Europe for an entire year than your average one-and-done player does in college? Can anyone even argue otherwise?) Allow the NBA's D-League to draft high school grads and let them play there for a year.
There are lots of options, but one of them shouldn't be spending six months in college.
As an added bonus, other basketball players will be happy to accept scholarships and actually attend class and stay for more than six months. During that time these players will become part of the fabric of the collegiate experience, enriching the overall environment for the other students. What's best of all about making freshmen ineligible? It's actually a return to NCAA rules from 1971, back when freshmen weren't eligible to participate in sports.
In fact, I'm so enamored of this idea that I'm going to break down several additional reasons why keeping freshmen ineligible would make sense.
1. College basketball already has a graduation problem.
Look, all of us know that college basketball has the lowest graduation percentage of any collegiate sport. Just 64% of college basketball players graduated according to the most recent statistics. (Maryland led the way with an 8% rate. Kentucky was one of the five lowest schools at 31%.)
That's, you guessed it, the lowest graduation rate of any of the 18 men's collegiate sports. (College football is second worst at 77%).
If college basketball has the worst graduation percentage of any men's sport, then it stands to reason that college basketball does the worst job of preparing its players for a successful life. After all, statistically the odds are much better of any single kid accepting a D-1 scholarship becoming a doctor or lawyer than they are of that kid going to the NBA.
But do you think most players or fans are aware of this?
2. Six months on campus doesn't encourage other kids to go to college, it makes college a joke.
Your average one-and-done player arrives on campus in August. Immediately, they are shunted into the easiest 12 hours worth of classes on campus. By October, they are practicing basketball. By November, games begin. In December they take the only exams, probably, of their lives.
Most of their classes don't even have exams because, you guessed it, only an imbecile could possibly not pass the courses.
Come mid-January, classes recommence. Players may or may not go since they know by February what their draft stock looks like.
By the end of March their college career is over.
The entire process is a sham.
3. Making freshmen ineligible would lead the NBA to change its own rule limiting draft-eligible players to 18.
Because the NBA doesn't really care about high school kids going to college -- they want the NCAA to create their stars for them. Don't kid yourself, that's what this age-limitation is really about. The NBA bigwigs have decided that requiring players to go to college for a year makes their product better. And they're making the college basketball product worse in the process.
Why should the quality of college basketball get kicked to the curb to help a professional sports league?
Put simply, it shouldn't.
4. Name me another field in America where we don't allow an adult to pursue the height of their professional ambition.
Does Taylor Swift have to spend a year singing in the Vanderbilt chorus before she can release her next album?
Should Blake Lively have to act in the Yale drama department for a year before she can go back to "Gossip Girl?"
In a sports context, did Pete Sampras or Michael Phelps have to play tennis or swim for a college before they could dominate their respective sports.
Of course not.
So why should adult basketball players have to go to college for six months before they become professionals? The very idea is ludicrous.
Unless you think that singers, actors and actresses, and every other athlete (with an exception for football players whose 18-year-old bodies aren't ready for the NFL) should also be required to attend college for a year. At least then you're being consistent, otherwise you're being ludicrous.
5. One-and-done players are rife with corruption.
What if I told you when you were 18 that in less than a year you would be a multi-millionaire, but for the next six months you had to go to a college campus and wait to be a multi-millionaire?
Then, what if instead of telling just you that, I told everyone you could possibly come into contact with.
You'd get a lot of attention, right? And most of that attention would be from people trying to get something from you, lining themselves up to be there for your big payday.
Then what if I told you and everyone around you the same thing when you were 15?
Oh, and you were dirt poor.
You think you might let someone buy you food, clothing, or take you to the movies?
Hell yes, I would.
So would you.
Guess what? Those are improper benefits.
Given the specificity of the NCAA rulebook, I'll even make this argument: every NCAA basketball player who is a one-and-done player is probably ineligible according to the letter of the NCAA law. Which means that as soon as coaches start recruiting these players the coaches are playing with fire.
Would the corruption be as bad if these players, the eight or so best players at what they do, could just go straight to the pros?
6. The one-and-done rule is racist.
I've written about this before. Do you think it's a coincidence that majority white Major League Baseball and future NHL players can go pro at 18 or go to college and then leave early if they so choose?
And we're talking about hundreds of players going straight from high school to the professional leagues in baseball or hockey, most of them for signing bonuses that offer little or no money. In the NBA draft, no more than eight high school seniors were selected in a year. And most of those NBA draft picks become millionaires on the spot.
If you don't believe that high school basketball players should be able to go straight to the league, ask yourself why you have no problem with it in baseball or hockey.
Oh, and by the way, how many Major League Baseball players and managers had college degrees on the mid-season rosters in 2009?
Boy, I wonder why we never hear about the need for baseball players to get college degrees?
7. Since when is making $35,000 a year in the D-League a bad thing?
I wish we cared as much as a society about basketball players getting a college education as we did about non-college basketball players graduating from high school.
So what if you don't go to college, you can play basketball at 18 for more money than most of these kids' parents make and you'll be making almost as the same as many college instructors! At least according to the most recent data written in the New York Times yesterday which said that instructors made an average of $47,000 a year.
It would be simple to set up a system just like Major League Baseball. If a high school kid enters the D-league then the NBA creates a trust fund so that the collective league has an obligation to pay for his college degree in the future should he decide to give up basketball.
You've created a viable road to the NBA for 18 year old's who could then enter the draft the next season. Instead of being limited to twenty hours of instructional time -- as all players are in college -- the players could work on their games to a greater degree.
Plus, you make the D-league relevant.
8. Deep down, you feel dirty about the one-and-done rule.
I know I do.
No matter how much you try not to, colleges make themselves whores when they allow students to show up on campus for six months and represent the universities. It's a cheap one-semester stand, the very anti-thesis of what collegiate athletics are supposed to stand for.
College should be a destination; not a pit stop. For those players who have no interest in making it a destination, they need another option, something that doesn't further devalue the game we all love.
Put simply, making freshmen ineligible for a year offers the best chance for the NCAA to combat the ludicrous one-and-done rule, improve the graduation rates of the lowest graduating men's sport in collegiate athletics, sweep away some of the dirtiest recruiting battles in America, and take back control of its sport from the NBA.
Making freshmen ineligible is a slam dunk move that all college basketball fans should support. Let's take a step forward into the future of men's basketball by returning to our past.