Living

Last Thoughts On The NCAAs — And Anthony Davis

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All those great memories of the Anthony Davis-era Kentucky Wildcats…let’ see, there was the 2011-2012 season and there was…well, nowadays in college basketball, one season’s about it. So before the memory fades of a player so great he can score just 6 points in the championship game and still dominate, take a look at one of his many highlight films.

Davis has become a target of sorts — by no means the only target, but as college basketball’s player of the year, the biggest one — for what’s wrong with college basketball. In case you are one of those basketball fans who only pays close attention to the pros and simply marks time during the NCAAs, the Wildcats have 3 prime freshmen (Davis, forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and point guard Marquis Teague) who comes under the heading of “one-and-done” — which means that after one year in college they’ll soon head to the NBA.

The NBA has a rule that requires players to be 19 years old or have
completed one year of college before becoming eligible for the NBA draft.
The rule was instituted in 2007, making at least two major stars,
Texas’s Kevin Durant and Ohio State’s Greg Oden, spend a farcical year
of pretending to be college students while waiting to be chosen in the
NBA Draft instead of, like LeBron James, bypassing college hoops
altogether before pursuing what you would think was their God-given
right to make a living and support their families.

Kentucky coach John Calipari has, claims the NCAA, circumvented the
rule in spectacular fashion; using Kentucky’s enormous recruiting clout –
the Wildcats won their 8th national title last night and they are,
after all, the winningest in college round ball history – by recruiting
and developing blue chip freshmen who win big and then jump ship for the
pros. You might think NCAA president Mark Emmert would be happy for
these young men — after all, a fluke injury during a college game might
prevent a player from ever seeing a dollar from the NBA.

But no….

“I happen to dislike the one-and-done rule enormously and wish it
didn’t exist,” he said a couple of weeks ago, before the Midwest
Regionals no doubt anticipating, as were so many, a Kentucky victory and
the subsequent fight of the Wildcats. “I think it forces young men to
go to college that have little or no interest in going to college. It
makes a travesty of the whole notion of student as an athlete.”

Now that’s what I like; a frank, semi-truthful statement from a man
who represents the athletic interests of America’s colleges and
universities. Yes, the so-called one-and-done rule does make a travesty
of the whole notion of “student as an athlete,” but no more so than the
millions earned by college basketball, none of which sees its way back
to those who earn it — that makes a travesty of the athlete as a
student.

“It {the rule] simple creates the wrong type of environment for us,” Emmert said.

Hmmm, let’s guess what might be the right type of environment for
Emmert and the NCAA. How about one where the players stay for 2 seasons
— 3 or even 4 would be better – so the players would become even better
known and bring in higher ratings for NCAA games and thus bigger
television contracts. Would that work? I bet Emmert would like that.

The NBA, which has a cozy major league/minor league association with
the NCAA, would like that, too. Which is the reason they passed the
minimum age 19/one year in college rule in the first place. One of the
major reasons behind the NBA’s success has always been that, like the
NFL, and unlike major league baseball, pro basketball teams never had to
spend a dollar for their own player development or even to publicize
their new players — they were already household names by the time they
signed their pro contracts.

Would the NBA be willing to modify their rule into a two-year minimum
between high school and the pros? You betcha, says NBA commissioner
David Stern. Anything that allows young men to spend more time in
college.

Thus the sham continues that anyone in either the NCAA or NBA gives a
damn how much time any basketball player stays in college. What they
care about, of course, is how much time he spends playing college
basketball.