Just let them play: NCAA rules limit potential NBA stars

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Early next month as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament winds down, all eyes will be on Houston when the 2016 college basketball champion is crowned within the confines of NRG Stadium.

Every March when tournament time rolls around, basketball experiences a temporary buzz. But other than those few weeks in March, the sport is in a state of decay.

“Across the country, people seem to be falling out of love with college basketball,” Sean Gregory of Time Magazine said. “Attendance for Division I men’s games has fallen for seven straight seasons. College basketball is in danger of becoming a one-month sport, capturing buzz only during March Madness.”

All across the nation, schools are experiencing a decline in attendance, TV ratings and overall interest in the basketball program. What was once a thriving sport enjoyed by many is slowly becoming a lost art watched only by die-hard fans.

How did we get to this point?

In 2005, the National Basketball Association, as a part of their periodical collective bargaining, ruled that players could not enter the NBA directly from high school. Despite the success of stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, who all made the decision to forgo college for an NBA contract, the league stopped taking players younger than 19.

This rule gave way to the one-and-done phenomenon in college basketball where a player, who likely had the talent to enter the NBA from high school, puts one year in at a college and then leaves for the NBA.

Having upperclassmen on a college basketball team has become far less ordinary, and fans have a hard time keeping up with the year-to-year overhaul of their favorite teams’ lineups.

In addition to lack of familiarity, the absence of upperclassmen on basketball rosters leads to sloppier play on the court. Data shows that teams score significantly less than 10 years ago and teams commit far more turnovers and fouls than ever before.

“I have great concerns,” NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships Dan Gavitt said to Sports Illustrated. “The trends are long-term and unhealthy. I think some people understand the urgency of it, but there are others who think the rhetoric is sensationalized and that it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. There are enough people concerned that there is movement to get things done.”

The NCAA has since shortened the shot clock in order to speed up the pace of play, a sign that they are committed to keeping the sport alive and making it more exciting.

If a player chooses to attend college, the NCAA should make them attend for a minimum of two or three years. This mandated time in college would give athletes time to earn credits toward a degree, further their basketball talents and develop as a human being.

Players who have been endowed great abilities that allow them to compete on a professional level should be allowed to do so at their own discretion. The NBA must consider once again allowing players to enter their league just after completing high school. Some of the league’s greatest players have done so and enjoyed remarkable careers.

Opinion columnist Reagan Earnst is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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