Thursday, June 25, 2009

More on the one-and-done rule

Earlier today, we posted the videos of the Outside the Lines segment which aired over the weekend on the one-and-done players in college basketball.

Both Marc Stein and Pat Forde wrote articles delving further into the issue. Stein supported the one-and-done rule:

Blaming the one-and-done rule for everything is a convenient excuse for college coaches, but doing so supposes that (a) players' leaving school after one season is some sort of new phenomenon and/or (b) college ball's recent scandals at USC (with O.J. Mayo) and Memphis (Derrick Rose) are the first scandals of their kind. Wrong and wrong.
Forde was against it:
That age limit has gone from boon to bust for college basketball. It put Greg Oden and Kevin Durant on campus and in college uniforms for one season, and that was fun. But it also pushed O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose into situations they seemingly had no interest in, resulting in ongoing scandals at USC and Memphis. It has forced non-students and pseudo-professionals to feign scholarship and amateurism for one season on campus, cheapening the college experience in general and college basketball specifically.
Both sides have legitimate arguments. The one-and-done rule (which David Stern originally wanted to be two-and-done, but was unable to get passed) is a safety net for the NBA. It is purely a business decision. The reason it is in place is because the league got tired of drafting guys that they have not seen play. NBA teams are not allowed to scout high school players. Even if they could, can you really get a feel for how good a high school kid is going up against severely over-matched competition?

So yes, while it is an exploitative rule which allows the NBA (and by default the NCAA) to maximize their profits off of these athletes, it is also a good business decision by the NBA. Like it or not, the NBA is, in fact, a business. And since first round picks get guaranteed contracts, they are, in fact, investments made by these organizations.

Say you owned a restaurant, and you were in the market for a new executive chef. Would you want to hire the person that is responsible for all the food that is served in your establishment without seeing that person in action? Without tasting their food? Without knowing whether they could create a menu that would keep your restaurant in the black while still putting a quality product on every plate in a timely fashion?

No, you wouldn't.

Which is precisely why the NBA has instituted this rule. It is tough to argue with that business sense.

But the rule's detractors also have legitimate arguments. For one, it may actually be unconstitutional to prevent these kids from profiting off of their skills because of their age (although, the NBA would argue that they don't prevent these kids from profiting off of their talents - they are eligible to play in the D-League and abroad, where they can earn an income).

More importantly, however, it forces kids that have no desire to further their education to spend a semester pretending they care about class before completely blowing it off to prepare for the draft. It opens the door for all sorts of NCAA violations; from things as minor as Ohio State losing scholarships due to low APR numbers, to the OJ Mayo/Derrick Rose/Nate Miles debacles.

It is not true for every kid that has been one-and-done, as guys like Thaddeus Young were honest-to-god student athletes. But Derrick Rose couldn't even score high enough on the SAT's to become eligible to play college hoops. Do you think he cared about furthering his education?

OJ Mayo has been a cash cow for those around him since he started shaving. Do you think he wanted to spend another year making a fraction of what he would in the league playing basketball to attend classes for free?

I understand what the NBA is trying to do with this rule, and it makes sense. It really does. But the way the system is set up now just is not working.

Stein argues that we shouldn't blame the recent scandals on the one-and-done rule because college basketball and college basketball recruiting has always been a cesspool. This is true.

There are always going to be recruits taking money. Coaches and players at all levels are going to fudge grades and test scores to get people eligible. Agents are always going to be running around college campuses. Players are always going to cut out on their last semester's classes if they know they are going to be entering the draft.

But I don't see any way you can argue that this rule was not the direct cause for the issues at USC and at Memphis (I'll give you UConn, because Miles was not necessarily going to be a straight-to-the-league guy). Why? Because, as I said before, it forces the kids that have no desire to be in school to attend school.

While the current system is inherently flawed, the biggest problem here isn't the 19-and-1 rule. It is the fact that the NCAA and the NBA are two completely separate institutions. As long as the player does not get caught while he is still in school, he can pretty much break whatever NCAA regulation he wants too without any repercussions. Until the NBA and the NCAA bridge this divide, this problem is not going to be solved.

The question becomes how do you battle this problem?

The Sporting News came up with an interesting theory:
The reason basketball players lose their eligibility when they enter the draft is because they've opted into the process. Hockey and baseball players can be drafted without losing their eligibility because they don't have to opt-in; they're just automatically registered. Michigan hockey alone has thirteen NHL draft picks on its roster. Of course, you're not in the NHL draft and neither am I, so the "automatic registration" is something of a fanciful notion. The NCAA did change its stance before the one-and-done rule was instituted by allowing undrafted players to regain their college eligibility, but why not allow kids who get drafted to keep playing in college? Have them drafted, let them come into camps and play in the summer league, and if they're not ready, send them back for what Stein paternalistically calls "much needed maturity" -- mmmm racial subtext. (Stein's big argument is ... wait for it ... a two-and-done rule.) Clubs love stashing players in Europe for a year or three ... why not the Big Ten?
I've thought about this before, and in theory it works. College recruiting would work the same way. High school kids are recruited and sign with the school that they want to attend. But everyone that has graduated from high school - regardless of their age - is eligible for the draft. If you get picked that year, that NBA team will own your draft rights. The player then will go through the same process of trying to make the NBA team (summer leagues, training camp, etc).

And if he doesn't make the team (or goes undrafted), he will be sent right back to the college he signed with/played for to get another season of development under his belt. You could even expand the draft a few rounds to allow more players to be selected.

While this is a great idea on paper, in practice it would be far more problematic. How long does the NBA team get to keep the player's rights? Does he get paid for going through the summer leagues and training camps? Will the player still be considered an amateur? What about the situation with a cap on the number of scholarship players you can have on a roster? Would the player still be forced to go to class? How would academic eligibility be handled?

While this is an intriguing idea, the likelihood of it actually coming to fruition is damn near zero.

As far as I'm concerned, the only way to fix this issue is to have the NBA institute some kind of penalty for a player's transgressions in college. If OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose had significant cuts to their salaries, or players with below a 2.0 in their final semester were fined, then we may see these problems start to decline.

But alas, the odds of that getting past the player's union is also damn near zero.

The one-and-done rule is working for the NBA, which means that in all likelihood it won't change.

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