Justice Is Served

June 24, 2010 8:55 AM

Against the Wall: Colleges must end 'one-and-done'


I have never liked one-and-done. I have detested, actually. The practice mocks higher education; it allows basketball players with no academic bent to attend college for one or two semesters and then leave campus with nothing more than a stronger hoops resume.

One-and-done is a bad bargain for both sides.

Think about it: What did John Wall, Derrick Favors, Derrick Rose, 'Melo Anthony and Greg Oden gain academically from spending a single year or less in college? What did their presence do for the concept of a student-athlete? Did their early exit prove dismissive of the term?

I understand that some athletes are gifted enough to play in the NBA earlier than others. I don't begrudge them that talent. God blessed them with this splendid gift, and a man has a right to profit from it. But I also know that for college coaches to waste a scholarship on a player who cares not a whit about what happens in the classroom is the sort of wrongheaded practice that debases higher education.

Are Wall and Oden any more prepared for the real world and all its complexities after one year of college?

Not to pick on either of these men, though. Others fit into this category of athletes who took a cavalier approach to higher education. But if college has value - and all evidence suggests it does - university presidents, the NCAA and athletic directors should frown on a recruiting system that allows an athlete to treat college like the minor leagues.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and so is scarce scholarship money. The thousands of dollars that went to Wall, Oden and Rose could have been funneled to a legitimate student who happened to have basketball skills. The next physician or accountant or lawyer could come from investing that money in a real student. 

The world is not short on basketball players or on boys who aspire to careers in the NBA. What do these athletes really add to American society? They do nothing aside from entertaining us, although entertainment has significant value. But so do Tom Cruise, Chris Rock and Lady Gaga, but are we throwing full scholarships at anybody who longs to follow in their paths?

All along, colleges had a solution, one that has value for both the athletes and the institutions. They can mimic what Major League Baseball or the NFL has done: mandate how long a student-athlete must remain in college. Dismantle one-and-done.

For the athlete, he has options: He can join the NBA Developmental League, attend a junior college, try to sell his talents straight to the NBA or play ball overseas. All of these allow him to work on his game without having to tax himself with trivial pursuits like studying Shakespeare and learning to solve complex math problems.

But for college educators, they have an option as well. Allow one-and-done to remain in play, but tell any coach who signs a player that the scholarship slot must remain in that player's name for three years. If the player bolts for the pros early, the coach can't fill his slot.

How attractive would a surefire one-and-done talent like Wall have been to Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State or any other college? Do you think Roy Williams, Bill Self, Thad Matta or Coach K would risk a scholarship slot if he knew he'd be tying up that slot for three seasons?

Yes, the coach would miss out on a brilliant talent like Wall, who will be the No. 1 overall pick in tonight's NBA draft. (I enjoy the dude's game.) But a coach must ensure that he's recruiting men who focus first on education and not the NBA. College shouldn't be looked at purely as the training ground for the next wave of NBA talent, unless that training is tied tightly to an education in the classroom.

In one-and-done, it isn't, which is the shame that Division I colleges must confront these days until their presidents demand an end to a practice that cheapens higher education.

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