This week, our staff was discussing two of Bob Costas’ insightful interviews on the topic of “One and Done” in college basketball. He suggested there would be advantages to returning to freshmen being ineligible to play – allowing student-athletes to become acclimated to college, and confirming their readiness to handle its academics before they can compete in intercollegiate sports. It is a valid suggestion from one of many experts who see the heart of college basketball (amateurs given the opportunity to play ball in exchange for an education) eroding in the wake of one year “rentals”.
Some have recommended that top high school players should have a minor league to hone their skills. Others think the NBA should change its rule to three years after graduation instead of one, similar to Major League Baseball. This would obviously benefit NCAA sports greatly, but would it really be in the best interests of the players?
We have made our own “one and done” suggestion to help solve this issue, but today I want to look at it from another direction. The “one and done” situation only afflicts a small percentage of student-athletes, in fact, an extremely small percentage. But the dilemma lies in the effect this small percentage has on the entire sport. There may be over 300 colleges participating in Division I basketball, but the championships are going to continue going to teams featuring freshman stars.
For those who care about the term “student-athlete”, it is disheartening to know that
the many faces of the sport are really 10% student and 90% athlete. They are connected
to the school by little more than the initals on the front of their jerseys, and once the tournament is over they’ll never set foot on campus again. But, since the NBA has made it clear they won’t accept players straight from high school any time soon, it’s important to resolve their status.
If we’re going continue having players in and out of college in as little as a single season, this leaves many fans disappointed that college is not a destination but merely a stepping stone to next season with the Wizards, Celtics or Knicks. Does it really need to be this way?
What if college basketball could continue to be a place where student-athletes come to learn as well as to play, no matter how may years they intend to stay?
Think about this: In the general population (made up mostly of non-athletes), high school graduates go to college to prepare themselves for their professional career. Students major in chemistry so that they can become scientists, study education so they can teach elementary school, etc. But what about future professional athletes? Do we realistically expect them to feign interest in a “major” when they know their real income will come from what they can do on the court or other field of play?
Our proposal is to create a major of “The Business of Sports”. It would include classes
on topics such as managing personal money, selecting agents, business contracts, talking to the media, kinesiology, coaching, training, and more. Student-athletes would be preparing for their future career, just as their peers are. It would also be a great opportunity for future role models to receive extra coaching and mentoring on how to use their fame to serve our youth well.
This program would provide practical value (life and career) to athletes who came to a school primarily to pursue a professional sports career. They’d benefit from the classes whether they stayed at the university for one year or more. And, if they washed out (due to injury or other factors) in a pro league, they could return to the school to complete a degree that would be helpful as a coach, agent or other sports-related role.