Congressman questions NBA's age rule

LOS ANGELES – A U.S. Congressman is demanding that NBA commissioner David Stern and NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter explain to Congress the reasoning behind the league's 19-year-old age minimum for U.S. players to enter the draft.

U.S. Rep Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) wrote both men a letter Wednesday to express his "deep concern" over a rule that "bar(s) athletes from playing in the league on the basis of age" and asked that the "policy be repealed" in the next collective bargaining agreement.

The four-year-old rule sends most U.S. players to the collegiate ranks for at least one season.

"This system does far more to serve the financial interests of the universities at which the students play than the educational interests of the student themselves," Cohen wrote in a letter obtained by Yahoo! Sports. "I am convinced the (age rule) contributed to the recent spate of scandals involving college athletes."

Cohen has asked that Stern and Hunter voluntarily open a dialogue with him concerning the rule and discuss "why this rule exists," according to press secretary Steven Broderick.

If they do not respond, the congressman is "prepared to pursue other avenues to get the answers," according to Broderick.

Broderick would not speculate on those avenues, but they would presumably include the calling of a hearing that would require testimony from Stern and Hunter.

"We are looking forward to receiving, reviewing and responding to the congressman's letter, as we always do," said NBA spokesman Tim Frank.

"We anticipate that the issue of the age limitation will be front and center during the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations and we look forward to the opportunity to revisit the change to the rule that was made in 2005," said NBPA spokesman Dan Wasserman.

The league and its players association jointly put the age limit into their collective bargaining agreement back in 2005. Stern has spoken about possibly extending the age minimum to 20 years old or two years out of high school for U.S. players. European players need only be 18.

"I ask that this policy be repealed when the NBA completes its new collective bargaining agreement (with) the NBA Players Association," wrote Cohen, who is a member of the powerful committee of the judiciary and the chair of the subcommittee on commercial and administrative law.

Cohen represents Tennessee's ninth district, which includes the city of Memphis and the University of Memphis, currently involved in an NCAA infractions case involving former Tigers guard Derrick Rose(notes).

Rose is a classic "one-and-done" player who spent time in college basketball only because of the NBA rule. He's accused by the NCAA of academic fraud for irregularities on his SAT.

Rose denied the claim, according to NCAA documents. The university has responded by saying the NCAA does not have enough evidence to conclude that Rose used a stand-in on his SAT. University officials will appear before the committee on infractions Saturday in Indianapolis.