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UCLA basketball players during the 2012-13 season, including noted “one-and-done” Shabazz Muhammad (second from left)

 

THOUGH NOT TECHNICALLY A SOCAL SPORTS ISSUE, THIS CERTAINLY AFFECTS OUR BASKETBALL SCENE

Geno Auriemma, coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut (which as sure as I’m writing this will win their third straight national championship this weekend), had a point when he recently stated that men’s college basketball was “a joke”, adding how they were “…so far behind the times, it’s unbelievable.”

Although he didn’t mention it, I’ll bet anything that Auriemma at least would agree with me when I say that a big reason why college hoops are “a joke” compared to their football counterparts is the fact that due to the National Basketball Association’s rule of players not being able to sign with a team until they are one year out of high school…

It is virtually guaranteed that fans will only see the best players on college basketball teams for only their freshman season before they call a press conference to announce that they have hired an agent and are wearing an NBA uniform six months later.

Indeed, I dare anyone to not believe that as soon as the final buzzer goes off at this weekend’s Final Four in Indianapolis, Kentucky coach John Calipari will see his entire starting lineup go pro, regardless of whether or not they make history in becoming the first undefeated champion since Indiana in 1976.

This “One And Done” rule of the NBA’s has decimated college basketball since it was implemented in 2006, particularly with regards to stability on college rosters.

Putting it another way: I would not want to be a coach of a major division one program, knowing that every top-notch recruit I sign would likely be gone after only a year.

If I were offered a position at a big-time program, I would run the other way screaming, preferring a mid-major school or a place in a smaller division, where I know I’d have my best guys for four years rather than one.

There is only one way that this dilemma can be rectified:

Do away with the one-and-done rule and adopt the policy of eligibility that Major League Baseball has (with a few tweaks).

Here’s how baseball does it:

A player would be more than welcome to declare his intentions to go pro and sign with an MLB team out of high school, but once he steps onto a four-year campus, he is required to stay in college for three seasons.

He is automatically eligible for the baseball draft in June after that; he wouldn’t need to declare anything.

If he decided to attend a junior college, he would be eligible for the draft after one year.

Which I know full well that basketball players would try to take advantage of as a loophole to the three-year eligibility requirement.

To forestall that, a tweak could be put in that would force a player, if he took the junior college route, to still adhere to the three-year eligibility requirement. Such player would likely be scared away from toiling at a tiny place with facilities often not much better than his high school’s, where he would get maybe 2% of the national exposure that he would get at a school like Kansas or Arizona.

At worst, he would transfer to a four-year school after two seasons and spend his junior year as a North Carolina Tar Heel or a Gonzaga Bulldog before turning pro.

For those who are railing against this proposal and screaming about how it deprives a young man a chance to earn a living, nothing can be further from the truth as those 18-year olds who want a chance to make money right away can declare for the NBA draft after his last high school game.

Or go play in overseas leagues like the ones in Europe if they are truly not interested in a college education; Brandon Jennings, a guard for the Detroit Pistons, did that when things didn’t work out with his college choice and he had to wait a year to play in the NBA.

In other words, the choice completely belongs to the player.

This new three-year eligibility policy would work well in that college coaches would not only be able to keep their recruits for longer than a year, they can be assured that the players under them want to be in college and pursue a degree, rather than use it as a mere truck stop on the way to the pros.

And it would also be good for the NBA in that their pool of applicants would rise if they are automatically eligible to be drafted after three years, like their MLB counterparts.

In short, it’s a good deal all around.

Hopefully I’ll be able to see this new policy become reality in my lifetime.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the Final Four this weekend, which to be honest is, in my view, the best thing about the sport of basketball by far.

 

 

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The (truly) good old days: The Bruins’ 1970 national championship basketball team, during a time when players stayed all four years. Legandary coach John Wooden is in the middle row, center

 

 

 

 

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