NCAA's woes not NBA's problem

Criticism of Age-limit rule unfair

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 7, 2009 

John Clay

Kobe Bryant didn't go to college. Neither did Dwight Howard. Nor did Rashard Lewis or Andrew Bynum. Pau Gasol, Hedo Turkoglu, Mickael Pietrus and Sasha Vujacic never went to college.

In all, that's eight players with key roles on the two teams in the NBA Finals.

Only four of the combined 10 starters for the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers played American college basketball.

So some are asking: Why did Derrick Rose have to go to college?

And this: So if a stand-in took the SAT for John Calipari's former star, wasn't Rose in a no-win situation?

The NBA's age-limit rule kept him from going directly to the league. His test score may have kept him out of college. He was between a rock and a hard place. This isn't about Rose, some argue.

This is about the NBA, and as one grandstanding congressman said, its "vestige of slavery."

No, it isn't.

David Stern got it right, as he usually does, when the NBA commissioner said the league's 19-year-old age limit is a "business decision" that has nothing to do with the NCAA and everything to do with the league making good talent evaluations of prospective players.

And Jay Bilas got it just as right, when he wrote for ESPN.com, "No NBA rule encourages anyone to change grades or cheat on tests."

I'm not saying Rose did cheat. And if he did, there is no evidence Calipari had anything to do with it. None. And this recent fake uproar over Robert Dozier's invalidated SAT is not a canard, at best. After his score was invalidated, Dozier attended prep school for a year before enrolling at Memphis. He was approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse. End of story.

But the fact both had fishy test scores shows the age-limit argument doesn't apply. Yes, Rose could have entered the 2007 draft with an excellent chance of being selected. But there were no restrictions in 2004 when Dozier was coming out of high school. He could have entered the draft but declined. He chose college, where he remained for four years, by the way. And he allegedly cheated.

The NBA doesn't care about that, nor should it. Its job is to protect its interests, which it does quite well. The 19-year age limit was enacted not for a LeBron or a Kobe, but for a Kwame Brown, the first pick in the 2001 draft, right out of high school, who has had a bust of an NBA career. Or Robert Swift, the 12th pick of the 2004 draft, right out of high school, who has started 34 games over four NBA seasons.

The age-limit rule keeps some players who have no business being in the NBA, out of the NBA.

Does the age-limit mean that some kids who have no business in college end up in college? Yes, though it's hard to see where even one year of exposure to a post-secondary education is a bad thing on a personal level.

But if the NCAA wants to crack down on that, it needs to crack down on that. Set aside a chunk of that billion-dollar television contract for more enforcement personnel. Take the necessary steps to ensure it does not take nearly an entire school year, as in Rose's case, before finally recognizing there is a problem with an entrance exam.

The guess here is that as we see Gasol and Turkoglu and Pietrus come over here, we're going to see more players like Jeremy Tyler and Nick Calathes go over there. Tyler is the 6-foot-10 San Diego center and former Louisville commitment who decided to skip the college route and play for pay in Europe. Calathes is the Florida guard who, after two seasons in Gainesville, decided he'd rather do his NBA prep work in Greece, reportedly for $2 million a year.

Maybe that's something the NCAA needs to address, but it's not the NBA's problem.

Neither is cheating on college entrance exams.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service