Why Don’t We Let The Kids Play?

Kyle Tooley

In professional sports today, there is a rule that goes largely unnoticed even though it could possibly affect the income of many athletes across the country.  It is a rule that was once non-existent in the NBA and has been a topic of controversy for the NFL in recent years.  It is one that, had it not been in effect (or had been in effect in the NBA’s case) would have affected the careers of players such as Jadeveon Clowney, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Garnett.  Simply put, the NBA and the NFL should adopt the draft entry rules of the MLB and allow high school players to enter the draft.  Not only is it not fair for these leagues to put restraints on when athletes can start providing for their families, but it also tears apart the college game, especially for basketball. 

Grant Hill and Christian Laettner both played 4 years at Duke and had extinguished collegiate careers
Grant Hill and Christian Laettner both played 4 years at Duke and had extinguished collegiate careers

The NBA’s rule that players need to be at least one year removed from high school sees an increased number of “one and done” college players which takes away from the glory days of college basketball stars that we all know and love.  Maybe I’m living in the past, but I’d rather see one Christian Laettner over five Andrew Wiggins’ any day of the week.  It tears away the so-called building of college programs and makes it so that teams have to rely on year to year recruiting rather than building on a team.  I’m not saying that recruiting isn’t important, but it helps when teams have some sort of foundation to build on.  In fact, this bogus rule has made mid-major programs all the more powerful, as most of their players are less-highly recruited and tend to be stronger when they get a handful of seniors built for deep tournament runs.

For example, look at a team like North Carolina over the past few years: had their players stayed all four years, their lineup would have been incredible.  The 2014-15 roster could have had players such as Harrison Barnes, James Michael McAdoo, and Reggie Bullock to go along with current players such as Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson.  And the argument could go both ways: you could say that players, in order to be draft-eligible, need to be more than one year removed from high school, which makes more sense for the lineup I had just mentioned.  And, if players were allowed to enter the draft straight out of high school, as they were through the 2005 draft, then Harrison Barnes probably would have never donned the Carolina blue and white.  But this comes down to the NBA essentially saying that 18-year-olds are too young to provide for their family, which just about goes against everything I believe in.  And, if you believe that high school players entering the draft and forgoing college will take away from the talent level in the NCAA, you’re just kidding yourself.  Any reasonable college basketball fan knows that March isn’t going anywhere and there will always and forever be the Gordon Haywards and Steph Currys of the world that come out of nowhere and surprise us in the tournament as well as in the regular season.  Also, do you honestly believe that Andrew Wiggins was the most polarizing player in college basketball last season?

Clowney (7) had a less than stellar junior year to avoid injury before his NFL career started
Clowney (7) had a less than stellar junior year to avoid injury before his NFL career started

For the NFL, the circumstances are a bit different.  The NFL requires players to be three years removed from high school to enter the draft, meaning seniors, juniors, and redshirt sophomores are eligible.  This rule has come under recent controversy with current Houston Texan and former South Carolina Gamecock Jadeveon Clowney.  After his sophomore year, many NFL scouts said that Clowney could be the number one overall selection if he was eligible for the draft.  He had the size, strength, and skill set for the next level, but had to wait another year before he could declare for the draft.  So, Clowney came under fire for not putting out his best effort the following season and even drew criticism from his head coach, the legendary Steve Spurrier.  But, who could blame him? Clowney simply didn’t want to hurt himself during his junior campaign, which would in turn hurt his draft stock.  After all, the difference between the first overall pick (which Clowney ended up being in 2014) and the 10th overall pick from that same draft class is about two million dollars, which is no small chunk of change.  Ask Marcus Lattimore if he wishes that there were no eligibility requirements in the NFL.

So who are the NBA and NFL to say that these kids can’t put their name in the lottery and try to get drafted at an earlier age? The leagues should not be able to decide whether or not they are “ready” to go up against next-level talent, which is what the athletes can decide essentially on their own.  In fact, if I didn’t want to go to college I could’ve dropped out of high school even and gone into carpentry or something, and there would have been no issue.  So why can’t football players try their hand at the pros after high school?  Do I think it’s smart for the players to go to college for at least a season? 110%.  But I don’t get to make that call, and neither should the leagues.  In total honesty, I respect players such Emmanual Mudiay for trying to bypass the system and get paid when they deserve to be.  After all, can you imagine being so skilled at something and then having someone tell you that you aren’t allowed to get paid for it?


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