The Comm and Gender Spot

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NBA Eligibility - Hurting the College Game?

This past fall semester I taught a course that examined the role of sports in the media. One day I talked a bit about eligibility rules and what someone has to do to become a professional athlete. I found it interesting that the current rules for the NBA

states that in order to be eligible to play you must be 19 years old and one year removed from high school.

But then this got me to thinking if this is good for college basketball. What this means is that players, if they want to keep playing while waiting to be eligible, must play 1 year college basketball but then can leave and declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft. For some reason this didn’t sit to well with me.

Fast forward to today. As many of you know I am a three-peater from Indiana University. I received my B.A., my M.A., and my Ph.D. degrees from that great institution. During my time there I couldn’t help but be a huge basketball fan. I was there during the firing of Bobby Knight, the ups and downs of Mike Davis, from making the NCAA final to not even making the tournament, and the start of the Kelvin Sampson era. Even though I am only five months removed from living in Bloomington I’m still an avid follower of their men’s and women’s basketball teams.

This year the Hoosiers’ men’s team has one of the greatest line-ups in many, many years. Currently they have an overall record of 16-1 and are ranked 7th on the Associate Press poll and 8th on the ESPN/USA Today poll. This is thanks in part to the one-two punch of senior D.J. White and freshman Eric Gordon. And it is Gordon that got me thinking again about eligibility requirements for the NBA.

Eric Gordon is currently averaging 22.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He is without a doubt one of the hottest freshmen in the college game today. But will he see a sophomore season?

Eric Gordon is good enough to enter the NBA draft after this college hoops season. I even believe that once he does so it is very likely that he will be snapped up by a pro team. But where does this leave the Hoosiers? After one year of success they are left to rebuild yet again.

Now it is the responsibility of the coaches to recruit the best possible players. (But don’t get me started on Sampson and recruiting due to his violations over the years.) But how can a coach cultivate a championship team if the best players are only putting their time in for one year while waiting to be eligible for the NBA? What does this do to the college game overall?

NBA Commissioner David J. Stern has said that it is best for these players to gain another year of maturity and another year of experience before coming to the NBA. Their only chance to really get this experience is the college game. But does it really benefit the players? The NBA? The college basketball programs? In my opinion the NBA needs to go one of two ways with this rule.

One option is to revert to the old rules what allow players join the league out of high school, in essence bypassing the college game and turning pro. This way college teams will not get invested in these players with the hopes that they will stick around for the long run but end up only get them for the short term. The only caveat is that the player must have completed high school.

The other option I believe that the NBA has is to follow the model of the WNBA. In order for a player to be eligible for the WNBA draft she must be either at least 21 years old or have completed her college eligibility. By waiting until they are 21 most players will have played basketball through their junior year. This allows coaches and teams to build year-to-year and make great runs at the NCAA championship. It isn’t the same as having players stay all four years, but I do believe that it is a better option than having them play only one year and leave.

Any thoughts?

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  • Ohio State made it to the national title game last year with Greg Oden. They would not have gone without him.

    I don't think their fans would trade the Final Four visit.

    By Blogger Samuel D. Bradley, at 8:20 AM  

  • But where are they this year? Definitely not at that same level. Is one year of glory really worth it when you can develop a team that could excel over time?

    By Blogger IUAngelini, at 9:38 AM  

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