I have to make a confession.
I've flip-flopped on the NBA's one-and-done rule enough times to make Mitt Romney sound consistent. And after three Kentucky freshman declared for the 2012 NBA Draft, the heat on the subject has been turned up a notch. Should NCAA basketball players be forced into a “two-and-through” situation?
My latest, and final, answer to that question is an emphatic “no."
Freshman forward Jarrod Uthoff wanted to “explore his options,” but the Wisconsin head coach made sure those options would stay limited. Ryan wouldn't allow Uthoff to transfer to any school in the Big Ten or the ACC, along with Marquette, Iowa and Florida.
Following the torching he received from ESPN Radio's “Mike and Mike”, along with fans and numerous other members of the media, Ryan has decided to only block him from the Big Ten.
I can live with that, but it doesn't change the fact that the handcuffs on amateur athletes continue to tighten—a “two-and-through” would only clamp them down more. Coaches can walk away from a contract and coach at any school they desire the following season. Athletes have to wait a year to be eligible to play for whatever school his previous coach allows.
That is utterly disgraceful and unfair. And forcing a kid to stay another year instead of pursuing his dreams would be, too. Accoring to Steve Ginsburg of Reuters, Kentucky head coach John Calipari issued the same sentiments in a press conference, the day before their national title game:
"I mean, Steve Jobs left, Bill Gates left. The integrity of their schools were at stake when they left. They should have stayed and not changed the world."
I couldn't have said it better, Coach. Now let's look at this one-and-done rule.
In order to be eligible for the NBA Draft, a player must be 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school graduation. That hasn't always been the case, though. Before the rule was changed in 2006, we saw some of the greatest players in the NBA come straight from prep.
That isn't to say everyone that came from high school was a success. If you look at the list of high school draftees, you will see plenty of names you no longer recognize. However, it isn't as significant a number as we are led to believe.
Then take into consideration that the top 11 players in SLAM's Top 50 went to college for an average of 0.9 years. Five of them didn't even play a single game of college ball. That includes LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Amare' Stoudemire and Dirk Nowitzki, who entered the league at 20 years old from Germany.
Kevin Garnett used to be a top-10 player and Andrew Bynum is creeping his way up the list—both were drafted out of high school. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony are three one-and-done players in the top 11. My point being, let's just can the “experience” argument.
That isn't enough for NBA commissioner David Stern, though. According to Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports' Pro Basketball Talk, Stern had brilliant ideas such as this:
“A college could always not have players who are one and done. They could do that. They could actually require the players to go to classes.”
“Or they could get the players to agree that they stay in school, and ask for their scholarship money back if they didn’t fulfill their promises. There’s all kinds of things that, if a bunch of people got together and really wanted to do it, instead of talk about it …”
Yeah, that's totally fair. A kid that doesn't get drafted has to pay back his scholarship money that bought him books and Ramen noodles. Let's just forget how much revenue said player probably earned the school.
That kind of makes you wonder how much money a college basketball program really makes, huh?
Thankfully the folks at Forbes keep track of such things. Last month, Forbes released "College Basketball's Most Valuable Teams". This year, Louisville overtook North Carolina for the top spot, with a value of $36.1 million.
As for the folks that feel the one-and-done will cripple college basketball, profits do not support that theory. The average value of the top-20 teams on the list was $19.1 million, which was up from $18 million in 2010. The average profit has also increased from $10.7 million to $11.6 million in that time.
I think we can go ahead and cross that argument off the list, too. And I think we can make another argument to boost the scholarship, with all the money being earned. In USA Today, UNC head coach Roy Williams had a similar point to make:
"Human nature is those kids are saying, 'Look at all this money we're bringing in. And I have to beg, borrow and steal to get an extra meal?'"
I'm not of the opinion that college athletes should be paid to play, but I do feel they should earn more than they do through scholarships. They could never be compensated enough to keep them in college or prevent them from taking extra money.
But what would it hurt to allow them to make money on the open market? Any other student can.
As for the kids that don't even care about getting an education and just want to play basketball, why make them stay longer? If a player is deemed worthy of the NBA, he shouldn't be held back to do something that has no significance in his career path.
Although less glorious and visible than college basketball, there is another option. The NBA's D-League allows anyone 18 years of age or older to tryout—graduated or not. The only stipulation is that the player's graduating class must have graduated already.
The D-League could easily become a minor league system that uses the draft much like the current system of the MLB. From there, the player can decide if he wants to take on college or the NBA D-League. Yes, an increased popularity in the D-league would ultimately put a dent in college basketball revenue, but I don't think anyone will be going broke over it.
“But that will still dilute the talent in the NCAA and college basketball won't be exciting anymore,” I hear you say. Perhaps it would, but I don't remember it being any less exciting before 2006—just because we never saw Kobe or LeBron play.
You would think Stern would see the dollar signs light up on the D-League and promote the hell out of it. There is obviously something we don't know at play here.
The bottom line is, no matter how you try to reason moving to a “two-and-through” rule, all of the reasons only slightly benefit the fans, the universities, television ratings and everything else—other than the players, themselves. It is simply our own greed as fans and folks on the receiving end of the money tree that stand in the way of these young players' dreams.
This is America, people. It is time we allow student athletes the same rights as any other student. It is time we allow them the right to pursue their dreams. It is time we set them free.
I will leave you with a quote I read in Money Players, from the legendary Dick Vitale:
“It is time to end the one-and-done, baby!”
“It is unfair to an athlete who has to go to school for one year when he has no desire to be in the classroom. College is supposed to be for those who want an education, for those who want to be there.”
“It is time to end this mockery. If these kids want to make themselves available for the NBA, then so be it. If the NBA sees fit to draft them, so be it. The league should determine which players legitimately have a chance.”
It is time, Mr. Stern.