Regardless of many people suspiciously thinking that the perception of amateurism in the NCAA is long dead, the generalization still sits resoundingly in the public mind. The public knows about the troubles behind the scenes in college basketball, but is prepared to overlook it in order to enjoy the show.
That’s not going to change.
The NBA, however, needs the NCAA to verify their inward bound players. They have also provided the “one and done” rule to safeguard not only the sustainability of their farm system (the NCAA), but to guarantee that they can make improved decisions and avoid Kwame Brown-type scenarios. The NCAA suffered under the “preps to pros” rule, and the NBA rode to their rescue with the “one and done” rule. This has generated a delicate win-win scenario for both parties.
Of course, that wasn’t only out of selflessness — the NBA also writhed under the earlier rule that permitted players to go straight to the NBA out of high school. there were plenty of unfledged prospects tanking rather than becoming the next Kobe Bryant.
A Win-Win That May Have One Side Winning Bigger
No matter what, the professional sports leagues are driving this train. Even if the NBA under no circumstances manages to push through “2 and through” or “3 and out,” they will live with “one and done” because it is better for the NBA than allowing players to come straight out of high school. Evidently, the NBA and the Players Union may well try to change that. But they either seem okay or detached with the give and take that exists at this time.
The NCAA needs to center on itself in the same way the NBA does. Right now, there is a reciprocal agreement that delivers talented players for a short time to colleges for the undeclared but noticeable purpose of developing them for the pros. The NCAA profits and the NBA diminishes threat in contracting.
What Makes This Such A Delicate Win-Win?
It’s not ideal for the numerous opposing interests. The NBA ownership would like a lengthier college internship, the NBA players admit to favoring none and colleges frantically want at least two years. But it serves as a beneficial, if defective, situation.
If the NBA, over time, views the NCAA pipeline as less and less advantageous, there will be more incentive for the league to look at other valid options to the NCAA. These may include really blowing out the D-League, starting club organizations similar to Europe, somehow using Europe’s club structures as a sanctioned farm system, etc. Any of those alternatives effectively followed in full would be a long-term catastrophe for the NCAA. A methodical fading and perhaps subsequent dismissal of men’s basketball as a big-money product would fundamentally put it out of business.
Why This System Won’t Change
Despite this possibility, the D-league is the perfect example of why this won’t work.
It is seen as a place where careers go to die, not to be born. That’s why you don’t see high-school players assembling there rather than to college to spend one or two years of – to hear the critics tell it – unpaid indentured enslavement.
Yes, the odd player does come up from the D-league and have success in the NBA, but they are so rare that not a single one comes to mind.
Conversely, the idea that the NBA can just flip a switch and create a practical farm system is just wrong. Constructing a farm system from scratch is both pointless and costly. The Association treats the developmental league as a bastard step-child anyway, and if it went away, I doubt the NBA would notice.
The NBA is not going to join forces with Europe for the primary reason that Europe is an opponent, not another player with a mutual monetary concern.
The NCAA Is The Perfect Partner
The NCAA is, on the other hand, exactly what the NBA wants — an entity that feeds it talent without costing it money. From the NBA’s standpoint, the NCAA is the picture-perfect player development system with its own high-tech training and sports medicine, their own marketing, an iconic tournament to showcase the NBA’s upcoming talent and a place with committed commonplaces to help them endorse their “amateur” athletes while they prepare for professional careers.
And all this at undeniably zero cost to the NBA — how does it get better than that?
There is no ultimate economic disagreement that makes sense for the NBA to try to replace the NCAA, regardless of what the NCAA wants. The NBA is comfortable if not happy with the status quo, and the NCAA’s main problem is how to deal with the haves and the have-nots, which is really the debate that’s coming to a head.
No matter how that shakes out, the NBA stands to lose absolutely nothing, and may actually gain if the BCS schools obtain a degree of separation from the NCAA.