The takes are nothing if not predictable. Any time that a basketball player decides that he’d rather not follow NCAA rules and instead play professionally, whether that’s playing in an overseas league or just sitting out to do private workouts to prepare for the draft, you get the predictable line that this is all bad for college basketball and this is why the NCAA needs to change, because the top talent just has to spend six months pretending to go to school in order for the NCAA to keep its cash cow going.
Am I getting that right?
But who exactly is watching college basketball for this reason? Being a Vanderbilt fan was certainly more fun during the four games that Darius Garland played (one more, by the way, than James Wiseman played for Memphis) and yet college basketball overall survived just fine when Garland got injured and ultimately left Vanderbilt to do the same thing Wiseman is now doing. Meanwhile, R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball are playing in Australia, and it’s possible that Cole Anthony has played his last game at North Carolina. It’s possible that four of the top five picks in next year’s NBA Draft are not currently playing college basketball and yet, the NCAA will go on.
Meanwhile: the national title game earlier this year between Virginia and Texas Tech was one of the most entertaining in the last decade, while the least entertaining might have been the Anthony Davis Kentucky team’s coronation against Kansas. Guess which of these games was deemed by the same sportswriters to be a massive problem for college basketball?
Were you to believe much of the sports media, the NCAA should do everything it can to chase the casual fan that only tunes in in March, and the casual fan is apparently a moron who only cares to see brand-name programs featuring future NBA players. Building your model around appealing to people who are distracted by the shiny object that is the NFL has never been sustainable and never will be. Meanwhile, for those watching the sport from November through February, the bigger problems are... a recruiting process that’s rigged toward the brand-name programs thanks to the NCAA’s lack of enforcement of its own rules, and neverending roster churn thanks to early entry and the transfer portal. I mean, when was the last time Duke had a player who was in school long enough to be hated?
Note, of course, that this has little to do with the morality of whether college athletes should be paid, because that’s a different argument. But bending over backwards to accommodate players who have made it blatantly obvious that they have no interest in going to college is an entirely wrong reason to change the rules.