If there's one group of people at the college level who could spur the NBA to change its age-limit rule, could it be major-conference athletic directors?
Let's see if Larry Scott's words echo loud enough to mobilize eventual change. The Pac-12 commissioner recently said he's tired of the "one-and-done" nature of college basketball and wants to change standards and procedure when it comes to players being eligible for the NBA.
Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic reported Scott's philosophy and opinion on the matter from last week's Pac-12 football media day. And when a basketball issue creeps into the preseason football party, you know it's quite a big deal. So here we go again.
But with college sports on the brink of overhaul, Scott feels it's time to alter a system that lets student-athletes “be on our campuses for less than 12 months.”
“Anyone that's serious about the collegiate model and the words ‘student-athlete' can't feel very good about what's happening in basketball with one-and-done student athletes,'' Scott told a small group of reporters at last week's Pac-12 football media day.
“We've managed with the NFL and football to have a reasonable policy that allows kids to go pro at the appropriate time. We've managed to do it in baseball. Basketball's the only sport where we haven't managed to come up with a responsible policy and the blame is with the NBA, the NBA Players Association and the NCAA, so now's the time to take ownership of it. We've got time. We've made major changes in football. Now there's time to make major changes in basketball.”
The NBA's age restriction, wherein a player must be one year removed from his high school graduation or be 19 years old at the time of the draft in order to be eligible, has been around for seven years. The Republic's research claims 59 players have been in and out of college in one season since the NBA's rule took place, eight this past year, accounting for 13 percent of 2013 draftees.
That group of 59 makes up for much less than 1 percent of college players in that timespan, though. Begging the question: Is the age limit really a big deal? Truly, when less than half of 1 percent of college players are affected by it? Some say yes because most of the time it's the highest-profile players who are using college as a necessary stepping stone before going to make millions. Others believe that's the business and it's OK.
Then there's the most popular solution: a minimum of two years (perhaps with the either/or option of leaving straight from high school) because it truly mandates a player spend time in class and remain academically eligible while improving his craft, maturing one extra year and better preparing him for the NBA.
This is entirely in the NBA's hands. Reason for optimism and change? The NBAPA will be under new guidance soon (ironically enough, LeBron James might be the union president on the players' side). A dialogue that has been mostly stifled under David Stern's tenure as NBA commissioner could flow more smoothly once the league has Adam Silver in the catbird seat come the winter.
"There's new leadership coming in to the NBA Players Association, and this is something that the conferences are going to be more engaged in," Scott said at Pac-12 media day. "There are great models out there. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. We have a menu of options with other sports and other sports leagues."
This issue gets revved and revived every half-year or so, it seems. Might we actually be approaching a real conversation with people who can implement change?