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Professional Sports Age Requirements

Should athlete talent dribble through a season of aging before being presented to the pro sports world? Is college a necessary bridge between high school and pro sports?

Let’s think about it for a moment. What would the basketball world look like without LeBron James, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant; all of which jumped directly from high school to the NBA?

The NBA requires one year removed from high school. The NHL and MLB allow a player to be drafted once he is 18 years old. The NFL is the only major professional sport that prohibits the drafting of players who are not three years removed from high school.

Is it really in the best interest of the players or is it another way for the NFL and NCAA to profit? Let’s look at the different sides of lifting the age requirement:

Lifting the age requirement:

  • Young athletes have personal and family needs and should be able to turn pro so they can care for themselves and their families, utilizing their exceptional talent for monetary benefits.
  • A former graduate of Baylor says it this way, “The NCAA and NFL have an unspoken rule that college players are ‘harvested’ and primed for free until they’re ready for the NFL. It’s basically exploiting the players for the gain and benefit of the two organizations.”
  • Some say the NFL and NCAA are reaping huge profits from players, with no compensation in return for those who provide the entertainment and talent. Yes, they have scholarships but nothing more.
  • Not all people are academically inclined. There are many famous CEO’s with brilliant business minds who were college-challenged; Bill Gates being just one prime example.  Talented athletes should be able to go into professional sports when they want to; it’s their body and their choice.
  • The injury factor: If a talented athlete receives a career-ending injury before he hits the pro level, he has not had a chance to capitalize on the monetary value of his talent as a professional athlete. No one is going to pay his way through life, post injury.
  • Unscrupulous sports agents also seek to cut their piece of the pie from the “lost” years of the young, zealous athlete who is anxious for a chance at professional sports.

Enforcing the age requirement:

  • When talented athletes are given instant notoriety and stardom at a young age, they often do not have the emotional maturity to handle inappropriate situations that are sure to come their way. Suddenly shoved into the limelight, the young athletes’ lack of maturity and social development is exposed to too much – too young.
  • There is a healthy 30+ year post-sports life to deal with. A college education will enhance a young athlete’s life experience which he can use well beyond his athletic career. Social and educational exposure gained in college helps develop the young athlete into more of a well-rounded player and hopefully, into a more responsible adult.

Two solutions to consider:

One is a mandatory requirement for young athletes to complete a certain amount of college classes in the off-season when they’ve turned pro. The athlete might also be required to have his degree before being offered a major pro contract. This would expose the young athlete to the educational process and life experiences outside of the sports world.

Another possible solution, (many are already doing this) is for the athlete to compete within foreign leagues such as NFL Europe, Euro league Basketball, and NBA Europe while in transition from high school/college to professional sports.

What’s your take on this hotly debated topic?


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