The NCAA has a long, illustrious history of striving for its own well-being with a complete disregard for that of its athletes—ahem, student athletes—but now it seems to even have failed spectacularly in the capacity for its own self-benefit. According to Andy Katz of ESPN.com, the NCAA has not only created a rule that further limits the amount of time basketball players can spend weighing a return to school against a potential future in the NBA, but done so in a way that is logistically impossible to enforce and offers virtually no benefit to NCAA programs whatsoever.
The new draft rule, which is not universally known, calls for all underclassmen to indicate whether they're in or out of the NBA draft on April 10, one week after the Final Four ends and a day before the month-long spring signing period.
...But there is a flaw in this rule that the NBA and agents have taken notice of recently. An underclassman can say on April 10 that he's returning to school, but he can still declare for the NBA draft by the league's April 29 deadline. The NBA doesn't acknowledge the April 10 date and will only put out an underclassmen list for prospective teams on May 2, after its own deadline and not the NCAA's.
It seems doubtful that the discrepancy in deadlines is based on the some noble, principled stance by the NBA, but the fact that the NCAA's ridiculous efforts to erase any and all opportunity for its basketball players to evaluate their options have been so easily derailed is at the very least quite gratifying. After all, the NCAA has already once cut down the amount of time that players have to deliberate entry into the draft, despite the fact that—as Katz notes in his piece—most evidence stands in favor of giving students more time as a mechanism for making a more appropriate, informed decision.
Under the perceived intention of the NCAA's new rule, players—after being asked to think of their school first and foremost throughout the season—are forced to make a highly complicated determination about their futures in what could amount to a week's time. That's not only unfair to the athletes themselves but, as it turns out, unnecessary. Katz clarifies some of the reasoning behind the NCAA's compulsion for a unique deadline with this note:
The objective is to allow college coaches a chance to replace a player leaving for the draft—which is almost comical since there's no way a team could find a spring replacement for a high-level draftee.
The absurdity of that notion should go without saying. But as a result of this claimed intent, the NCAA has accomplished one preposterous goal: it has denied athletes the chance to work out for NBA teams without surrendering their eligibility. Now, due to the realignment of the NCAA's deadlines, players must declare their intent to enter the draft before they're able to work out for (or thereby receive any workout-related feedback from) NBA teams. It's a spoil the NCAA has taken merely because it can—from a body of athletes who have no real means of representation against a system that laughably claims to have their best interests at heart.
But hey, enjoy March Madness.