For many, the increasing presence and success of smaller programs and programs that aren’t known for basketball is indicative of the parity that exists now that the “one and done” rule, meaning the best college basketball players spend their required year in college and go play in the NBA, is essentially a rule of thumb for college basketball’s elite. In other words, the lower your profile, the more likely it is that your players will stay, thereby further developing the individual skills and teamwork that translates to success in college basketball. The NCAA tournament is the yearly occasion when folks discuss how the one and done rule isn’t good for college basketball or the NBA. Which is to say that the come-and-go nature of the best basketball players in college and the “weakening” of the NBA game is somehow more important than the reason why these players leave in the first place: money.
As exciting as it is to watch every spring, college basketball is part of an incredibly corrupt institution–the NCAA–that does not have players’ best interest in mind. The NCAA enriches itself while players spend a year or more in some form of indentured servitude. Despite the NCAA’s best pitch, players are not attending these institutions for a “free” education, which, it turns out, isn’t really free. Scholarships aren’t guaranteed, and the practice and preparation demands are something like the equivalent of a full-time job–plus school. If you had the opportunity to leave and make millions of dollars, wouldn’t you?
Folks want to spend all this energy ragging on players for spending a year in college and leaving, but have no desire to really confront the material realities of life as a college athlete, where a devastating injury not only hurts one’s chances at professional sports, but jeopardizes that “free education.” If March Madness is the annual come to Jesus meeting about young basketball stars and the decisions they make about their futures, then folks just need to keep it gully and make efforts to revamp the system so that it benefits the players and not he system. If folks are anti “one and done” create some sort of vocational system or minor league for those few superstars. Make the education entirely free. Pay players a living wage while they are in school. Guarantee those scholarships. Provide actual tutoring and assistance for players to gain employable skills should professional sports really not be in the cards. But stop suggesting that the system is broken because players are “using the rule to their advantage.” The system is broken because for many, dunking a basketball was the only way they’d see the inside of a college classroom. And if they somehow lose that talent, they’ll never see that classroom again.