One and done

I missed the one-on-one discussion earlier this morning on Mike and Mike, but I’ve caught some of their responses to tweets, etc., reacting to what they said. Last night, three superstar freshmen were in action – Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Kentucky’s Julian Randle. All had monster nights and all will be high first round draft picks in next year’s NBA draft.

Some points raised:

1) Greenberg said that the rule is clearly hurting players, but is working beautifully for the NBA, whose rule it is. I don’t really get the argument here at all. Did it hurt the NBA that Kobe Bryant came straight out of high school? Or Kevin Garnett? Or LeBron? Or Dwight Howard? If you want to claim that the waste of a No. 1 pick that was Kwame Brown somehow would have been avoided had he been forced to go to college for a year, I am doubtful. It’s likely he would have dominated in his one year in college, or shown flashes, as they say, and with his size, he would have been a very pick in any event. Michael Olowokandi went to college and NBA talent evaluators still managed to completely overrate him. Why? Because he’s 7′ 1″.

I don’t see the benefit here at all.

The colleges clearly benefit from the rule. They get superstar talent, that much more television exposure, a bonanza in jersey sales that is only heightened by the fact that every one knows the Andrew Wiggins’ of the world are future NBA stars who are only making a brief pit stop in college.

As Greenberg and Golic rightly point out, the biggest losers here are, of course, the players, who are being forced, for no good reason, to play for room and board for a year when, in reality, they are already ready to earn serious money. How anybody can imagine themselves a red-blooded American capitalist, as the overwhelming majority of serious sports fans surely do, can spew some of the nonsense in defense of this rule amazes me.

2) Greenie read a tweet from someone arguing that if a player leaves early, they should be forced to pay back their scholarship. Appropriately, Mike and Mike consider this moronic. But it is a widely aired sentiment. As Greenie noted, the player is earning the school far more money than the school is giving to the player in return. This is not a close call. Furthermore, another responder said that, for example, Wiggins was “taking up” a four year scholarship that could go to another player. This claim is based on a basic misunderstanding of the standard college athletic scholarship. It is not a four year scholarship. It is a one year scholarship that is renewable. Athletic programs reserve the right not to renew essentially for any reason. Obviously, if they’ve recruited a star player, obviously they will renew that scholarship if the player chooses to return and is still helping the team.

But there is no such thing as somehow reserving a spot for a player for four years such that someone else is being denied that opportunity. And even if there were, the obvious point is that if a player leaves after one year, then the scholarship slot is available for another player.

And ask Kansas coach Bill Self whether he’d rather roll the dice with Andrew Wiggins for one season than sign a likely four year player who won’t be nearly as good. After he’s done laughing in your face, I am pretty confident I know how he’d answer the question.

3) Its simply a joke to argue that the quality of play in college itself is less than it otherwise would be because the three guys mentioned above are actually playing college ball this year, or because Kevin Durant played for a season, or Greg Oden (back when he could actually take the floor).

There’s no greater good being served by this rule except, as Greenie says clearly and correctly to help big time college sports further its business interests. There is no other goal here. It’s about money, period. A business transaction in which you, the great player, comes to college, “pretends” to be a student for a few months, and helps the team win and the institution (and the coach) make money. The player doesn’t owe the school diddly. Quite the contrary.

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2 comments

  1. This might be a naïve point of view, but I’ve always felt that more of the guys who make a “pit stop” in college before heading to the NBA should actually take their academics more seriously, especially those who are destined to be bench warmers. True, guys like Parker and Wiggins have their future set, but a very low percentage of guys have the same prospects. They’re stars in high school, decent in college, and mediocre in the NBA. Yes, they can still get a minimum salary contract for a few hundred thousand over the next 10-15 years, but wouldn’t they be better served if they actually got an education so that when they retire from warming the bench, they aren’t stuck with nothing? So many guys ignore the opportunity they have while being at a highly ranked school (what are the chances they would be able to attend that college were it not for basketball?) because they assume they’ll be stars in the NBA. A dose of reality may change their attitude.

    That’s the way I see it.

    1. I absolutely agree that it would be better if guys – especially those who aren’t going to be stars at the next level – got more out of their college education. And without a doubt, there is a degree of self-delusion – people exaggerating their own prospects of making it big. But there is another problem – the big time schools are, in general, not really providing the resources necessary to help some of the more academically challenged athletes succeed. They all talk a good game – tutors, study halls, “commitment to education” and so on. But there’s much less there than meets the eye. So, that’s a big part of the problem, too.

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