The NCAA, Part 2

“Should NCAA players be paid?”  That is a not one question, in my mind.  It should be, “Why aren’t players paid out of high school?” and “Why is the NCAA the only option for basketball and football players?”  If you think players should be played out of high school, why is the NCAA is the only option?

For all the failings of the NCAA, one thing that has continued to bother me is how no one asks the leagues who were developed with the express purpose of being professional sports (NFL and NBA) to pay players out of high school to become professionals.  Why is it that the NCAA, a supposedly amateur organization has to be forced to pay players just to play?  I actually agree with the idea behind the O’Bannon case, which is the NCAA, the networks, the apparel companies, and the video game companies should not be able to use the likeness of athletes for free.

Back to the subject, why is the NCAA expected to carry the entire burden?  The NFL and NBA have essential through an accident of history been granted free minor league/development systems.  So, what is their response to players wanting to go directly from high school to being a professional?  Each worked with their player associations and created rules to make it virtually impossible for a player to go from high school to their leagues.  The NFL has even gotten the court system to back its particular rule.

At least the NFL doesn’t get pissy whenever the NCAA makes a peep about the unfairness of the rules like David Stern has.  I am not saying the professional leagues are right or wrong and I’m not saying the NCAA is right or wrong.  These are all greedy entities who are acting in what they believe to be their best self-interests.  The problem with that is, it makes a mockery of the concept of the student-athlete and puts those student athletes in horrid decision making positions.

In my mind, the perfect solution is this:  The NCAA establishes a two-year (I would prefer three) or none rule for every sport.  If you sign a grant-in-aid you are committing to college for at the very least 2 years.  I would also change to 1-year renewable grants-in-aid to full four-year scholarships, with the normal academic requirements for academic scholarships.

This could only be accompanied by the professional leagues getting rid of the rules that keep players jumping straight from high school to the pros.  NBA and NFL, if you don’t like the players the NCAA is giving you or you think an 18 year old knucklehead should not be a drain on a team’s salary, invest in real player development.  Fund and manage an effective minor league system that will give players a chance to learn how to be a professional athlete.

That is the real reason everyone wants to tinker on the edges of the NCAA.  If (and when) the NCAA ceases to exist as it is, the two biggest professional leagues in this country do not want to have to pay for minor league systems.  Though the NBA has started to understand that making the NBDL functional and worthwhile is good for the NBA’s long term survival.

Time and circumstance has created the mess that is big time college sports.  The reason it is easy for a basketball player to have someone give him $500 or $1000 for food, rent, etc. is not just because they need that money.  It is also because the person giving him that money is investing in someone whom they believe will be able to pay them back in some way by 10 fold.  Should we change the rules that don’t allow coaches to give a player $100 to get food over a long weekend?  Yes, we should change all the silly bureaucratic rules like that.

However, changing those does not fix the larger underlying problem of the NCAA being forced to act as a “free” minor league system.  Until that is addressed by everyone involved, you cannot fix anything.

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