Following the Commission on College Basketball’s release of a 60-page report recommending NCAA reform on Wednesday, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association issued a joint statement addressing the terms that impact the sport on its highest level, should they choose to accept them.
The commission, chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and featuring former NBA stars Grant Hill and Robinson, urged the NBA to abolish the one-and-done rule barring players from entering the draft for at least one year after finishing high school. Rice and company also want players who enter the draft early to be eligible to return to college if they are not selected. If they do go back to school, the commission said, players should lose their rights as NBA free agents until the next draft.
This is all recommended under the guise of “separating the collegiate track from the professional track,” which would be a strange concept in any other walk of life and remains an odd one here, where universities are making millions off the work of student-athletes. The commission addressed this issue, in part, mostly maintaining the status quo that scholarships are a form of compensation.
There is no simple solution here. Here’s how the NBA and its players’ union responded jointly:
“The NBA and the NBPA thank Secretary Rice and the members of the Commission on College Basketball for their commitment to address the issues facing men’s college basketball. We support NCAA policy and enforcement reforms that will better safeguard the well-being of players while imposing greater accountability on representatives and programs that fail to uphold the values of the game. We also share the Commission’s concern with the current state of youth basketball and echo that all stakeholders — including the NBA, NBPA, NCAA, and USA Basketball — have a collective responsibility to help bring about positive change. Regarding the NBA’s draft eligibility rules, the NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game.”
Here’s how I interpret that statement: Hey, thanks for laying out all the issues facing the NCAA. They’ve definitely got problems, and they should address those. But we’re good. We’re happy to help with youth basketball and all, but don’t conflate our business with cleaning up the NCAA’s corruption.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “the only thing of value” for NBA executives from the commission’s report was the recommendation that un-drafted players be eligible to return to college, considering 236 prospects have filed for early entry into a draft that only has 60 job openings. For the record, there is already a system in place for prospects to test the draft waters and return to school.
So, that has less to do with the NBA than it does the NCAA. The main issue for the NBA here is the one-and-done rule, which the league enacted in 2005 and has discussed for some time independently of Rice’s commission. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has become increasingly amenable to abolishing the rule, but not before they have carefully considered it from every angle, including the possibility of EuroLeague-style academies and/or transforming the G League into a true feeder system.
This will be done on NBA time — not at the NCAA’s command.
In short, the NBA is already taking measures to address these issues. The NCAA has bigger problems. For its part, the Commission on College Basketball recommended the NCAA make more immediate changes, should the NBA not abolish the one-and-done rule this year, offering several alternatives:
“We must emphasize that only the NBA and the NBPA can change the one-and-done rule. If they choose not to do so by the end of 2018, the NCAA must still find a way to address this situation. In that circumstance, the Commission will reconvene and consider the other tools at its disposal. These could range from the baseball rule, to freshman ineligibility, to ‘locking up’ scholarships for three or four years if the recipient leaves the program for the NBA after a single year. That would be a disincentive to recruit an athlete for a one-year run at the title. In short, the current situation is untenable.”
Except, the NCAA also can’t independently enact the baseball rule, which forces prospects to choose between entering the draft early or playing elsewhere for 2-3 years. According to a league source, the NBA has taken the baseball rule off the table and doesn’t believe it’s a solution for any stakeholder.
Additionally, the commission’s alternative plan to bar freshmen from playing would be an extreme measure, and while “locking up” scholarships for multiple years would certainly level the playing field in college basketball, good luck getting Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and other elite programs to buy into that idea. The NCAA might as well ban top prospects from entering college.
It’s like the commission is drumming up every possibility other than allowing athletes to make money while playing in college. From a broader vantage point, how will abolishing the one-and-done rule rid the NCAA of the corruption scandal that led to this report? It seems to me that if the commission is concerned with removing top prospects from the equation and urging the next tier of players to stay in college longer, then there might be even more financial incentive to coerce those student-athletes to participate in their programs, where the schools will profit from students’ work for multiple years.
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