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ISSUE 121 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/2/2008

Inside the Lines: Draft a new system

By Matt Tiano
Executive Editor


Friday, May 2, 2008

Imagine that your superior were to make a rule that you could no longer have your new best friend after April 27. You're losing him, he's ready for the "next level," ignoring the "money," because it's "just the right decision."

By the way, your superiors are NCAA President Myles Brand and NBA Commissioner David Stern.

In this space in November, I was all over the new NBA minimum age requirement. Allow me to rescind my statement because my dear friends have been taken.

The NBA minimum age requirement of 19 is as wrong as Lebron in the League at age 18 is right.

Note to fans of UCLA (Kevin Love), USC (O.J. Mayo), Memphis (Derrick Rose) and Kansas State (Michael Beasley): You all can carpool to your psychotherapy sessions.

The current system forgets fans. Projected to leave school before their first collegiate game, fans sought reasons, any reason, why their star might stay. The university? They'd tell you such. The storied basketball program? We've heard it all before.

The current system taunts fans with the slim-to-none chance that a sophomore season awaits, puts words in players' mouths about a possible return, and is a system that encourages draft-eligible players to flat-out quit school after declaring, if they've hired an agent. College basketball shouldn't be about who's leaving college basketball.

If sports are about building relationships, it's hard to do this given your favorite players are there because they have to be, not because they are trying to put a smile on your face by winning. Not to mention that they'll be gone quicker than you can launch espn.com to see if they've called that press conference.

It really is tough to blame the players. All mentioned will be guaranteed millionaires within the next three months, and the rent-a-star system seems to have worked just fine. The "greedy" argument doesn't work. Wouldn't you have done the same? Millions compared to an education, with the option of easily financing an education later on (which many do choose to do, such as UCLA's Aaron Afflalo, who is finishing his degree at UCLA this summer). If a playing career doesn't work out, a big name will have easy access to coaching and management opportunities down the road.

So get rid of these guys. I'd rather never know them. I'd rather not watch them nearly as much as I did. Send them off to the NBA with a high school diploma. Instead, fill college rosters with guys that can benefit from at least three years of the college experience. If they want to test NBA waters after three years, that's fine, as long as they have successfully completed three years of college coursework. Coursework? Athletics? Sounds funny.

Sportsmanship was a key issue on the NCAA's plate this season, especially in college basketball arenas. Brand should kick himself for this one. When you make students celebrities, sign massive television contracts, and put them on a podium they aren't capable of standing on in front of such a massive audience, surprise, surprise & you're an easy target. Maybe the first step is to make these athletes students first, athletes second with stricter academic standards and renegotiations with Stern.

This system would put in place just that -- something missing from the current game -- a system. The best teams, the teams that are the most fun to watch, are those that don't have the most talent, but do the little things correctly, pay close attention to fundamentals, and have a balanced roster. Coaches talk about it all the time, the "system" they have, but when you have the one-and-done superstar, what system is that?

One player (Rose) isn't supposed to result in a massive contract (Memphis coach John Calipari). One player (Mayo) isn't supposed to raise attendance by nearly 4,000. One team (Kansas State) isn't supposed to get the type of TV exposure they got, well, because they're Kansas State.

And it's not about the money.





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