With the end of the NCAA basketball season media all over the U.S. have been talking about how student athletes are being treated. Some hate that they leave after one year. Others don’t like that they’re being exploited. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.
College sports were at their best in the mid-70s to early 90s. Players would stay all four years giving the nation a chance to learn who they are and see how they progress. There is something special about seeing young people get better. The college system works because they take in young talented players and teach them how to become athletes and adults. It was as much about X’s and O’s as it was about turning young boys into men. It’s no coincidence that the teams started drafting players straight out of high school and all of a sudden the NBA has a problem with its image. You used to hear about players having a father-like relationship with their coaches, such as Ewing and John Thompson or Grant Hill and Coach K. Players had someone to hold them responsible, to sit in their living room and teach them how to be the man they became.
How can this change? Well that’s the million dollar question. Players leave school early to make money, it’s as simple as that. Many of these players don’t come from the best circumstances and most of their family has been relying on them to make money for years. At the first sniff that their son, nephew, cousin could drafted and sign a pro contract they receive unbelievable pressure to throw everyone on their back. Its no ones fault, it’s the system’s. We want players to be great, and when you’re great you make money. It’s almost impossible to ask players to stay back and basically play for free. Lets not kid ourselves – that’s what they are doing. The illusion is that these kids are going to school to get an education. Of course there will always be exceptions like Kemba Walker, a Bronx native who was drafted in the top in this year’s draft. He won the national championship this year and graduated one year early as a junior. It’s a great story but unfortunately it is far from the norm. The only answer is to stop giving them a reason to leave. The NCAA has to start paying student athletes.
Obviously the NCAA cant give these players a lump sum of money and that money will be nothing close to what they would be paid in the association. If that were the case all players would be paid the same no matter skill level or playing time. The funds would have to be accounted for and used toward school-associated things like transportation, housing, and food. A second aspect of the plan would include offering players an insurance policy on their bodies and future earnings. One of the biggest reasons why student athletes leave school early is because if they stay and get hurt they miss out on all future earnings. Many take a guaranteed thing instead of leaving their futures to chance because as always a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Is it perfect? No, but it’s an idea. The game will continue to suffer, as exemplified by the men’s NCAA championship game, which finished at 53-41 with both teams shooting a combined 26%. People will stop being as fascinated with college sports. The NCAA can’t stay the same—everyone knows that. This only serves as an idea to raise the quality of a game that many people love. This is my idea, what’s yours?