Thursday, June 4, 2009

Congressman Steve Cohen to the NBA: Lose the age limit

US Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn), who also happens to represent the district that includes Memphis, has asked the NBA and David Stern to repeal the NBA's age-limit. The letter, which was obtained by CBSSports, begins:

I am writing to express my deep concern over the policy of the National Basketball Association to bar athletes from playing in the league on the basis of their age. The '19 plus 1' policy, which requires American players to be at least 19 years of age and one year removed from their high school graduating class, is unfair restriction on the rights of these young men to pursue their intended career. I also believe that it has played an important role in several recent scandals involving college students who were prevented from entering the NBA upon high school graduation. I ask that this policy be repealed when the NBA completes its new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Players Association.
While it is interesting that this comes at the same time that the credibility of the University of Memphis basketball program, Cohen said the timing was a coincidence; he intended to send the letter at the start of the NBA Finals because guys like Kobe, LeBron, and Dwight Howard went straight to the NBA.

I'm not going to get to deep into the 19-and-1 rule right now, but Cohen is right - the rule needs to go. It makes a farce of the term student-athlete, it forces players that have no desire to be in college to spend time on campus, and it creates so many more problems for coaches recruiting these one-and-done stars.

Look at the three major college basketball scandals of the past year. They all could have been avoided if this rule was not in place. Derrick Rose and OJ Mayo probably would have gone straight to the NBA (and been high lottery picks), and some believe that Nate Miles (a troubled youngster who attended five high schools before finally being cleared to play for UConn) probably would have gone the NBA route as well.

And what if Mississippi State (or USC or UCLA) gets burned by the recruitment of Renardo Sidney, another guy who would have gone pro?

This rule is only a bad thing for american basketball. Not only is it making college hoops more of a cesspool than it already was, it is driving some of our most talented players overseas. If the NBA keeps the age limit intact, it will only further these trends and continue to ruin the sport that so many of us love.

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