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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Knight and Forde - Give us a Better Idea

College basketball TV and online analysts, college coaches and NCAA administrators just love to point the finger at NBA Commissioner David Stern when they complain about the Collective Bargaining Agreement which calls for NBA players to be 19 years of age and one year removed from high school. They bitch and moan about collectively bargained NBA rules and their effect on the college game without so much as a suggestion of a legal and better idea nor a hint that the NCAA easily can control its own destiny and adjust its own rules to deal with the age issue.

Pat Forde of recently wrote: "If I were NCAA president Mark Emmert, I'd overnight a manila envelope to David Stern labeled 'Josh Selby.' The young man's dossier would contain every example of what is wrong in Stern's National Basketball Association and how it undermines the mission of higher education."  He later writes: "The NBA needs to make its Developmental League an option -- a viable, straight from high school option -- for teenagers who want to play pro ball but don't want to go to college.  The NBA owes that much to all interested parties."

He continues: "Spare the schools from enabling a sham that makes a mockery of education.  Spare the franchises from babysitting unprepared and/or immature teenagers.  And spare the fans from being force-fed the big lie."

Read on, Mr. Forde, read on.

Meanwhile, former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight, a basketball Hall of Famer, frequently criticizes the NBA rule and often puts his foot in his mouth by misstating the facts while attempting to put his own opinion forth as a fact.  Knight went so far as to accuse University of Kentucky freshman players of not attending class in the spring semester a year ago and not adhering to eligibility standards, an act for which he later apologized while simultaneously side-stepping the real issue -- NCAA college basketball needs to look in the mirror.

In Knight's ESPN apology, he stated: "My overall point is that one and dones are not healthy for college basketball."

Well, then, (former) Coach Knight, why don't you suggest a solution rather than pointing the finger at the professional game?  Nah, its much easier to lay-out the pro game for self-serving reasons, isn't it?

Rather than point the finger and pass the buck, here are a few points to mull over while you make an intelligent decision and shape your own view on the issue of the NBA's rules and their effect on the game of college basketball in the United States:

1. First, the NBA does allow 18-year old basketball players to go directly from high school to its "D League."  The very premise of Forde's entire post on's college basketball subsection is for the NBA to solve the negative experience of Josh Selby at the University of Kansas by allowing a player like him to bypass playing in the American college system and play in the D League.  Well, Selby could've done just that but the University of Kansas, for some reason, persuaded him to play basketball at their school. So, to be clear, the NBA - via its development league - has a mechanism for players to go directly to the D-League, improve their game, then to play in the NBA if they are talented enough to compete at such a high level.  A player also has the right to take a pass on college, practice or play pro ball in a country other than the United States, the latter being a very attractive option.

2. The NBA and its players collectively bargain the rules that govern the league.  The entire 'early entry' system was a product of collective bargaining, back when Oscar Robertson (then-president of the NBA Players Association) brought forth a major lawsuit against the league which resulted in the Robertson Settlement Agreement allowing for "a player whose high school class has graduated" to enter the draft by notifying the league 45 days in advance of the draft that he was foregoing his NCAA/college basketball eligibility and making his talents available to the NBA.

That stated, the NBA and its players agree to rules that are best for the NBA.  At times, that might have an effect on college basketball in the USA or pro basketball in other parts of the world, but the NBA, as a business entity, has the right to create rules which are good for the NBA, so long as they are legal in terms of USA labor laws.

You can't criticize the NBA for resolving a lawsuit one day and then collectively bargaining for a better agreement with its players another day as the league plots what's best for its longterm business.  The laws of the USA allow for entertainers, musicians, electricians and plumbers to make a living after attending high school, regardless of their effect on NCAA basketball programs. Why should pro basketball be held to a different legal standard?

3. The NCAA can adjust its own rules to deal with the issue.  How they do that is up to the NCAA and the very influential breed of college basketball coaches that seem to govern the very sport they coach.  A very simple adjustment might be to reinstitute the freshman basketball eligibility rule and have first year players compete on a freshman only team, the way they did back when Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) played for UCLA in the late '60s.

I might guess, if the NCAA did that, the freshman games just might find their way on to ESPN or ESPNU, in some shape or form, which would generate some dollars for the institutions of higher learning, in the same manner that spring football has somehow found its way to TV.

4. College coaches, like Bill Self, could change their recruiting policies and only recruit players who (verbally) commit to more than a year at school.  That might be pie-in-the-sky thinking, I admit, as the player could change his/her mind after a very successful freshman year.  But, my point is that the coaches themselves can control their own recruiting.

5. I mention this for sheer comedy sake - might it be unintentional comedy by Mr. Forde - why on earth should anyone care whether Josh Selby attended the University of Kansas' team banquet?  More importantly, why is it the NBA's problem that Selby, Self and Kansas spent enormous amounts of time dealing with the NCAA's eligibility issues and requirements?

6. If the NCAA recruiting rules required a player to commit to three years of college basketball, would the ruling stand up if a "student athlete" challenged it in a US court of law?  And, isn't it possible that the so-called "one year charade" would become a "three year charade" at many a collegiate hoops factory, err, institute?  

7. If the mission of higher education is the main issue, as Forde proclaims in his lede paragraph, then why doesn't the NCAA require all "student athletes" to make a 3.0 or 3.5 grade point average before they become eligible for sports?  Any sport, I might add, not just men and women's hoops.  How would that hold up in court, I do not know?  But, it would certainly protect Forde's mission for higher learning and the "holier than thou" attitude of collegiate sport which has all the revenue streams of pro sports minus the enormous line item of payroll.

8. NBA teams do not need to be spared "the babysitting" duties.  They have a great option and it's called waiving the player.

9. Why is okay for baseball players, hockey players or businessmen to bolt college to play their sports or create their businesses, like Microsoft or Facebook, but the sky falls when college basketball is discussed in the same manner?  St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca always said, "If an underclassman were to play the violin at Lincoln Center, we'd throw them a parade."

10. Beside all of these points, don't you think the NBA would agree and do cart-wheels if the flow of talent from the American college system would come on a regular basis after players completed four years of college?  That, combined with a regular flow of international players (age 20, 21 or 22) would create the greatest system of talent development any sport could ever imagine.  The fact of the matter is that such a system might be illegal under labor laws.

Food for thought, Mr. Forde and Mr. Knight.  It might be time for re-write and another apology?  This time for the NBA and Mr. Stern.

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