It’s been a decade since the last time athletes were drafted straight from high school to the NBA. After the 2005 draft, the league implemented a rule that requires North American draftees to be 19-years-old and one year out of high school. But with a new collective bargaining dis-agreement on the horizon for the summer of 2017 (when both sides can opt out of the 2011 deal), almost no one is satisfied.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he’d like to see the requirement raised to 20 and two years out of high school. The players' association said this week that they’ll fight to bring the minimum age back to 18. And some colleges and universities, where these so-called “one-and-done” athletes mark time while awaiting draft day, are considering ways to keep student-athletes on campus a little bit longer.
Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University and the former chair of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: You have said that the one-and-done phenomenon “makes a mockery of our hope that student-athletes are receiving an education.” I think you're right, but explain your position, please.
[sidebar title="Kentucky: No.1-And-Done" width="630" align="right"]Since the NBA raised it's age minimum, Kentucky has reached three Final Fours. Coincidence? Not exactly. [/sidebar]NH: Well, I do think athletes come in who intend to go to the NBA. They're with us for one year and in some ways they only have to pass one semester of coursework because in the second semester the basketball season is done before a typical exam time.
The problem is when college athletics becomes merely a minor league. That really damages our mission that we want real student-athletes. And we want people who can work towards a degree.
BL: Some conferences are considering declaring freshmen ineligible to play, which would make it pretty hard for NBA scouts to use college games to chose their next draft picks. Should the NBA be worried about that threat?
NH: I think university presidents are really upset about this. It may not be a lot of players, but I think symbolically it strikes at the heart of what we hope college athletics can be. Presidents of the Atlantic Coast Conference will meet next week, and I'm sure that will be on our agenda. Now, I don't think there'll be enough will to actually change so that freshmen would be ineligible. I think many basketball coaches and certainly potential players would oppose that. I do think what you're seeing is the emergence of real concern. And if nothing would change then I think more drastic moves would be taken.
BL: Making freshmen ineligible would be great for student-athletes who aspire to academic achievement. But, that assumes that a majority of players are actually interested in being students. I wonder, at this point, if that's a reasonable assumption?
NH: Right. Well, I think it is for most, the vast majority of players who aren't going to be in the NBA. Most of our players buy into the idea that they're going to play basketball and they're going to get a degree. Because even if they go to the NBA — and that's only going to be, what, two, three percent — who knows how long they can play? And then there's life, and I think the value of a college degree is a wonderful thing.
So I do think if it ever happened, to have freshman ineligibility, those who were interested immediately in just playing basketball would find other routes, whether it's go to Europe or some sort of NBA development league. Now that's one thing — I wish the NBA would do that. I wish they would have a more formative, paid program for young people who just want to play basketball.
BL: This week Gary Kohlman, general counsel for the NBA’s players’ association, called the current system “complete hypocrisy.” Mr. Kohlman promised that the NBPA would fight to revoke the rule that forces players to spend a year in college in the first place. As a champion of education, where do you come down on that idea?
[sidebar title="College Hoops' Overlooked Phenomenon: Fatherhood" width="630" align="right"]CBS Sports' Matt Norlander shares what it's like for some of the many fathers who play college basketball.[/sidebar]
NH: No, I think I would agree with him. I think that's the best thing to do. Now I can understand why the NBA doesn't like that. It means they have to look at high school players rather than watch the NCAA tournament, say.
But then a young person with great basketball talent can choose just to play basketball as one can in other sports — as in baseball or soccer, whatever. Or, if someone wants to get an education and play basketball, they can choose that option.
BL: You realize of course that if John Calipari at Kentucky hears this interview, you're going to get an angry letter.
NH: No, I think he can recruit those players who actually want to do both. And that's our purpose — giving that degree of choice and flexibility. I mean, I think it worked well 10 years ago.
This segment aired on March 7, 2015.