The Sports Bros.
How to instantly make the NCAA Tournament better: Eliminate One and Dones
If you’re an average sports fan, you love March Madness. Period. It's a stretch to find any finer few days in any sports than the first two full days of the NCAA tournament. It goes two ways:
We love the five seed upset by a 12 seed. First, we love this being the birth of the Cinderella story. The winning underdog and their fans are on an emotional high! After years of toiling with their team, they watched their seniors come together and pull a mighty upset.
Second: For the losing team? Shame. Hurt. Despair. Buuuuut — no matter — the NBA Draft is just around the corner.
This is the state of college basketball and it is not good.
According to Article X Section 1(b)(i) of the current NBA collective bargaining agreement, a player must be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year in which the NBA draft is held, or at least one year removed from high school graduation.
What the NBA/NCAA did is set up a situation where we can no longer have Lebron Jameses. No more Dwight Howards. No more Kobe Bryants. No more droppin' outta high school, straight into the pros.
Many of the young, talented, sure-to-be-NBA-stars choose one-year of college to start getting an educa ... screw it, they're there to hone their skills for the mandatory one year before bolting for the draft. It's the "One and Done" phenomenon. The players go to college briefly (often not even showing up for class the second semester, since they don't need to maintain eligibility for the next year), do the minimal amount of work and jet.
Take Kevin Durant for example. He had the pick of the litter of colleges coming out of high school (where he attended in the Northeast), jumped on the Texas train (a legit contender to win a title in 2006-2007 that year with A.J. Abrams, D.J. Augustin, and big man Dexter Pittman (of course Texas lost in the second round instead), but knew all along he was just paying his one-year due so he could get into the pros.
Getting There As Quick As You Can
In last year’s NBA Draft, the Kentucky had its entire starting five drafted, including No. 1 overall pick John Wall — and all but one of the players was a freshman. That one, of course, was junior Patrick Patterson who was drafted by the Houston Rockets. In 2008, we saw Derrick Rose selected as the No. 1 overall pick out of Memphis as a freshman.
In that year's NCAA tournament, Rose's team lost to Kansas in the national championship game, but we later found out he cheated on his SATs (aka didn't give a crap about his schoolwork) and Memphis was forced to vacate its wins.
How is this current CBA helping the player and the university out? We’re kidding ourselves when we use the term “student athlete.” The “One and Done” philosophy is robbing college basketball of drama and giving teams and fan bases false senses of hope.
One and Done Kills Passion, Rivalries
Before this rule was enacted, the tournament bred rivalries. It presented an ecosystem where they could be cultivated and then to thrive. The Duke teams with Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill were hated (in a good way — they were breeding/encouraging rivalries) because we got to know those players. They didn't leave after a year; we learned to hate them over the years.
This, in turn, led to Duke apologists fervently defending their team. The drama was real. The games were intense. The stakes continued to get higher. It was, most importantly, more fun for everyone.
As we said before, last year’s Kentucky team had its entire starting five drafted in the first round. An amazing feat. Surely they won the tournament the year before with all that talent right? Wrong. They didn’t even make it to the Final Four. John Calipari's fell to West Virginia in the Elite Eight. How awesome would it have been to see these same great players come back and fight to make up for that early exit?
Truly, four of those players were just renting Kentucky. Kentucky was just a vehicle for them to reach a seven--figure payday. It takes everything in the university’s power not to advertise games as “Come see Star X before he’s gone!” Fans don’t get to grow with their players.
There are some exceptions. Tyler Hansbrough stayed all four years at North Carolina and was celebrated as one of the greatest Tar Heels of all time while simultaneously being despised by Duke fans. We don’t get to see a lot of this anymore.
The problem is: This is what everyone WANTS to see.
Directly from Barry: “I was at Texas Tech University when Kevin Durant had his '"One and Done"' season with the University of Texas. I’ll admit it was pretty excellent to watch him play, but I just couldn’t help but think that he just wished he was playing in the NBA. It made me not even care about the jeers from Texas fans as they went on to crush us.
I just kept thinking, 'This will all be different next year when you’re little rent-a-star is gone.' That is NOT what college sports is about.” (Sidenote: KD going to the SuperSonics did give us one of the greatest sports commericals of all-time though.
Not to mention, these players are taking up scholarships! That’s money that could go to a student who actually wants to be both a “student” and an “athlete.” When you think about it, a "One and Done" type player barely has to attend class. All they have to do is enroll and pass the minimum number of hours in the first semester it takes to be a full time student so they’re eligible to play when the second semester starts. (That’s usually about 12 hours or four classes.)
And don't think for a second there aren't some simple classes that are secrets of the athletic department that guarantee passing grades.
Now, in the second semester, these players don’t even have to go to class. Who cares if they fail? Not them. They’re just going to declare for the draft anyway. Good use of scholarship money.
We know this is surely not how all "One and Done" students do things, but it's important to note it can (and is) being done this way.
The solution is simple. The NCAA and NBA need to adopt the same draft eligibility rules Major League Baseball has. After high school, a player gets to choose either to turn pro or go to college. But once you enter college, you have to stay until either:
a). You’ve finished your junior year, or
b). are 21 years old. This makes those students athletes accountable. It tells them, “If you’re serious about college ball, you’re a student athlete. A student AND an athlete.” It allows for three years of schooling and training. Not only would it would help out students academically immensely, but also athletically.
It's true that a good portion of college basketball players leave for the NBA too early. Each team only dresses 12 players and really only eight or nine play a night. That’s not a lot of jobs. By keeping them in school, they can better prepare for the future.
Kevin Durant didn’t need his one year of schooling at Texas. He should have just left out of high school, but he didn't have that option. He didn’t want to be at UT and we shouldn’t make him go to school.