ACC Man - Is A New League In Order?
Saw recently where the NBA is in the process of forming a 'developmental league'; whose purpose is to facillitate the process of transitioning professional caliber players from high school to the NBA. The underlying theme here, which will be the primary commentary of this article, is that high school players will have another alternative available to them besides enrolling in college or declaring for the NBA draft; either of which they may not be ready to undertake. There are a number of positive and negative aspects of this plan which we will comment on below.
First of all, the idea of high schoolers being not ready for the NBA or not well suited to pursue a college education is an ongoing, nagging problem whose solution is long overdue. For this alone, I must applaud the NBA in their efforts. The new league would offer high schoolers the option to forego a college education; giving them an [organized] platform to development their basketball skills; and most importantly providing some reasonable financial compensation ($30-50,000 per year). From what I understand, players in the new league would all be eligible for the draft each year; and of course, would continue to play at this level if undrafted. I've also heard that NBA teams would have the ability to 'call up' players during the season (similar to the CBA), but this seems contrary to the intention here and could open up a whole nother can of worms which we'll opt not to comment on at this point. Of course the inference here is that the vast majority of 'good' players would likely go this route which leads to the question "What will become of college basketball (our favorite)?
Well, for as long as I've been following the college game the appeal has not been the showcasing of superstars as much as it has been the meaningful competition (i.e. 'every game counts') and the intense rivalries. I for one don't feel that the removal of these [non-education oriented] superstars from the college game would hurt things one little bit. For that matter, it might likely result in the [college] game regaining some it's sound fundamental play which has seemed to slowly disappear in recent years; an aspect which should be very appealing to most 'true' fans. And obviously it should go a long way in eliminating the extremely exasperating process of signing a player only to have him leave [often well] before his eligibility expires. Gaining stability while not sacrificing competition is an idea with a very strong appeal to me.
All this being said, I should address the large number of fans who would sorely miss the superstars .. and in the process offer some other thoughts towards making this more practical [than it currently is]. The 'sticking point', as alluded to above, always seems to be the provision for some type of financial compensation for these players who are making so much money for their respective universities . . . and the related issue - what happens if a star player gets injured and cannot [ever] fulfill their professional aspirations and potential. And there's also the question on whether the majority of college players can effectively pursue a 'worthwhile' four year degree. The NCAA, in their usual display of wisdom, has recently passed rules allowing players to make some 'minimal' wages for providing services (whatever they may be). A, I don't think players would get all that excited being able to earn [likely] $25 to $100 a week; and B, this presumes the student athlete would have 10 hours a week available while trying to balance educational and athletic demands [and enjoying the college experience]. Beyond that, the idea that these players need [additional] financial compensation is a farce to me - they already receive numerous benefits including tuition, room and board, free athletic apparel, several great trips, [better than typical student] dining privileges and tutorial assistance, etc .. so something doesn't seem right in giving them a few more bucks a week. The question of a player sustaining a career threatening injury is a legitimate one however - I'm not aware that this is allowed, but I propose that the NCAA allow universities to purchase high dollar insurance policies on players they deem to have professional prospects .. that way, as long as the university 'adequately' protects a player they should be much less apt to need to leave. The NCAA has also proposed legislation to allow players to 'get a loan' based on future earning potential (alas, a good idea) .. albeit details would need ironing out, but this could help resolve the situations where players would like to help [as soon as possible] an impoverished family; certainly another main reason why players opt to leave early. And the last concern - the ability of a player to obtain a four year degree. I propose the establishment of an 'Athletic Degree'; encompassing somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the credit hours required to obtain the normal four year degree. This would not only create a much more reasonable objective to complete; but would provide a very positive situation for players wanting to complete a full degree down the road or who need to enter the work world after college (doesn't "I have an athletic degree" sound much better than "I never graduated"?). Well, there you have some thoughts on how to keep the college game intact while directly facing some of the realities before us (sorry NCAA).
In closing, it's good that the proliferation of early draft entrants this year has been a catalyst for action; but it's somewhat disheartening that all parties involved have been reactive and not proactive. Stay tuned as it appears the basketball landscape is in for some dramatic changes!