In the wake of the controversy surrounding our beloved basketball program, I have noticed a very interesting theme consistent throughout Tiger Nation: we seem to forget that these allegations brought by the NCAA, are, for right now, simply allegations. I have heard nobody bring a real defense. Its almost like we want these allegations to be true so we can just hate Coach X even more... which is a perfectly fine aim as far as this blog is concerned, however, is our voracity to throw another dart at a picture of X's face stronger than any desire to attempt to save our Final Four banner, our 38 win season, our conference win streak, or Doz, AA, or Chance's ability to call themselves the winningest players in NCAA basketball history? Granted, there does not appear to be much hope of doing this, especially when it seems RCJ is running to the Forum with a pair of scissors ready to cut that banner down himself. But come on Tigers, sure we got screwed and are still getting screwed, but that season was special and it belongs to Memphis, not X, not Rose, not the coaches and players who left for the University of the commonwealth of Kentucky, but to Memphis... its players, its fans.
Even so, if the allegations do turn out to be true, why are we directing all of our hate at X? It was Derrick Rose who got somebody to take that test for him, not X. Want to know why we do not hate Derrick Rose? Here's why... because deep down inside, even though none of us condone cheating and will readily admit that Derrick Rose was in the wrong, we can not blame him for doing it. Rose did not come to Memphis for an academic endeavour by any stretch of the imagination, he came because he had to. He did not want to be here, "here" meaning college, but he had to go somewhere so he chose Memphis. Sure, he could have gone overseas and played his year, but an 18 year old kid leaving Illinois for a foreign country, that would be hard. Yes, it has been done, it is being done, but still it is hard.
Derrick Rose had all the talent necessary to go to the NBA right out of high school but could not due to separate monopolies at the two highest levels in American basketball: college and professional. The NBA has no competition, nor will it ever, and can make any sort of rules regarding the eligibility of the players it employs, in this case, no employment until one year after your graduation from high school. But why have this rule?
Is it to preserve the talent pool in the NBA?
No. Common sense would dictate that you want the best players, no matter their age.
Is it to preserve the level of entertainment for the fans?
No. Again, having the best players makes for the most entertaining show, no matter their age.
Is it in the best interest of the players?
No. Why delay a six or seven figure guaranteed contract to a kid from a low income family? What is so special about a one year buffer from high school to the pros when the opportunity to provide for one's family is right there? By no means is that in the players best interest.
But, it is in the best interest of the NCAA. Amateur college basketball is a multi-billion dollar BUSINESS. Those first two questions that we just answered "No" to when asked in the context of the NBA, are answered "Yes" when asked in the context of the NCAA. The one year rule is in place to preserve the talent pool of the NCAA. The one year rule is in place to preserve the level of entertainment for the fans. March Madness is more exciting now because there is more talent on the floor.
So why did the NBA create the one year rule? Why is the monopoly of professional basketball in collusion with the monopoly of college basketball, when such a rule subtracts talent from the NBA and gives it to the NCAA? It is because the game of many kids that would declare for the draft out of high school is not polished enough for the professional level. The talent and athleticism is there, but the finer points are not. So, instead of spending a year and a roster spot and millions of dollars smoothing the rough edges of a high school kid at the professional level, the NBA realized it could accomplish the refining, without the overhead, at the college level. A win-win situation for both monopolies and there is nothing anybody can do about it because neither have any competition. The NCAA gets all the top prep stars for at least one year, driving up revenue, and the NBA gets a year of free refining; not to mention exposure of talent leading up to the NBA draft.
I believe college baseball has the ideal system in place in terms of its relationship with its professional counterpart. If you are good enough to go out of high school, and you want to go, then go. If not, sign with a college and play there for three years before turning pro. The players have the choice and the power, not the NCAA or MLB. This would work beautifully in basketball too. Players like DRose would have the freedom to choose NBA or college, but if you choose college it is with the understanding that you will play there through your junior year.
Now, I realize that there are not as many roster spots on a basketball team as there are on a baseball team. I also realize that the NBA D-League is not as deep as the minor and independent leagues of professional baseball. But this should be seen as a positive for the NCAA. This drastically limits the number of kids who would go pro right out of high school because there is simply not enough room to take any more than the best of the best at that time. The rest go to college, where they play three years, not just one.
But as long as the one year rule is in place, high school basketball players with one-and-done potential will not care about college and will not care how they get there, just as long as they do, so they can play basketball at the highest lawful level. Derrick Rose sounded a very important alarm here: THE CURRENT SYSTEM IS FLAWED. Players can and will distort academic records because they have to get into college in order to play basketball and will not be personally penalized after leaving college. The NCAA can not touch Derrick Rose now. He used them. He drank their milkshake.