By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Much ballyhoo has been and continues to be harangued against the serial one and done college basketball players. Old school argues a player comes for an education; sports are secondary. They postulate the player owes something to the school that brought him up, bred him, fed him, sorta educated him, and then gave him the golden ticket to a spectacularly lucrative career.
For the record, I have no objection to the one and done. As an alumnus of Syracuse University College of Law and a near 30 year resident of Upstate, New York, I have the good fortune to be in love with and married to one of the NCAA’s perennial premier powerhouse basketball programs. As home to Carmello Anthony, his 2003 NCAA National Championship here at Syracuse while a freshman, and his successful jump to the NBA right after, I have some perspective on the question of one and dones. Some of the best players in the NBA passed through Syracuse en route to their good fortunes.
There is nothing wrong with one and done. Universities are educational institutions. They are not, however, the places where we end up – unless you are one of those perpetual students with a PhD and post Doctorate living on ramen and chasing grants. Universities are training grounds for lawyers, doctors, engineers, McDonald’s cashiers, and yes even professional sports. An athlete’s marketability and career as a professional is very short lived. In many cases that career is storied and monied beyond imagination.
At the same time, college is just a way station; a place where people pass through as they move on to bigger and better. What if I am at a fine university and given a free ride and then one day I come up with a great idea. I drop out of – Harvard? – and go on to start Microsoft or Facebook or Apple. Should I be sanctioned because I did not stay four years? Eight years? Must I reimburse the school for all its kindness in doing its job and preparing me to be a success in life? I, along with every one and done athlete, will always have the opportunity to return to school and learn of arts, chemistry, and advanced calculus. The opportunity for a lifetime of financial success however, may be time limited.
For that reason, why would anybody seek to hinder someone’s chance to start their professional career before they have completed a college degree? Let the athlete be free to garner as much gold as they in the time frames allotted. Most of us never get that chance. Why deny the student athlete or punish them for their good fortune and talents which have an expiration date? A college degree can always be secured later.
As an alum, it is heartbreaking when you have your One and then he is Done after one year. But he owes me nothing and I have to encourage him on having a long and illustrious career.
Where most schools seem to run afoul of NCAA is in the question of payments to student athletes. Their scholarships are not the issue; it is the hidden money that is so offensive. The jobs, the cars, the free meals, all the goodies coughed up by alumnus to recruit and retain the big name players at the schools.
If you want athletes to stay four years, bring the daylight in and let schools pay players. Consider the huge sums of money universities bring in from athletics and how the name and identity of players are sold by the school and the NCAA. Student athletes do not get a dime. If schools paid players openly and honestly, maybe they would stay for a full education and feed the university’s coffers. This way, everybody wins and the NCAA can pack up its toys and go home.
Still and notwithstanding my extremist views, it goes back to that quote that everybody attributes to someone different: If you love something, set it free. If it returns, it will be yours forever. If it does not, then it never was. Let the One come. Wish him well if he is done and flies off. If he stays, as is shown by the entire Syracuse coaching staff, he will stay forever.