The NCAA's Futile Effort To Fix The NBA DraftS

The new NCAA President wants to change the rules on draft eligibility, proposing an MLB-style system. It's a noble effort. It's completely unworkable.

Emmert takes over from interim director Jim Isch in November, but he's already got big plans. During a radio interview today, he announced plans to meet with David Stern and Billy Hunter and argue for major changes in the way the NBA drafts players.

It's not going to happen, for two reasons.

First, it doesn't matter what the NCAA wants. The age limit is David Stern's baby, and it's a unilateral move. (As unilateral as any collectively bargained agreement can be, anyway.) It wasn't Myles Brand who instituted it in 2005, and it won't be Mark Emmert who changes the rules now.

"This is not about the NCAA," Stern said last year. "This is not an enforcement of some social program. This is a business decision by the NBA."

If it were up to the NCAA, they'd want players to graduate before being eligible to leave, to keep the stars in college longer. And as long as we're dreaming, if the NCAA were running things, players would be forced to get their MDs and JDs as well, and stay in school for 15 years, playing all the while.

But let's say the NBA is amenable to a change. We can't see it happening MLB-style, as Emmert wants, and we're not sure it'd be good for the NCAA.

Currently, high school baseball players are eligible to be drafted after their graduations. But if they choose college, they must stay through their junior years. That's just an extreme version of the NBA's current rules, with three years instead of one. Who does this serve?

Not the NBA, which likes the one-year requirement because it makes the top prospects household names before entering the league. One year is plenty for that; think Washington's not excited for John Wall because he only played a season at Kentucky?

Not the players, who are anxious for their payouts. The one-and-done players don't want to be in school. Forcing them to stay two extra years isn't going to materially increase their educations.

The NCAA? Maybe not. Because Major League Baseball's draft has one exemption to the three-years rule. If they attend junior college or community college, they're eligible to be drafted at any time. We'd see a rush of borderline prep stars heading to unknown JuCos to put in their year, then off to the NBA. The top NCAA programs would be deprived of stars. And a number of JuCos would turn into nothing more than basketball factories, like the myriad odious prep academies currently masquerading as schools.

Maybe the JuCo thing is unique to baseball, and the NBA discards that option altogether. Then, the only option for those not yet draftable, but looking to get paid, is to play professionally in Europe, and that has yet to work out for anyone.

So that leaves high schoolers jumping straight to the pros, like we had before. Clearly that didn't fly with the NBA brass. But add to that even more borderline cases declaring early, so as not to get stuck in school for three years, and the number of high-school-to-pro washouts would explode.

Emmert's going to fight to keep kids on college teams for as long as he can, and more power to him. But he won't get it, as long as he's going up against the NBA, and a players' union with a lot more on their minds this round of CBA negotiations than a bunch of teenagers.