It's only been since 2006 that high schoolers were banned from jumping straight to the NBA, so it's not as if the current system—which has mainly supplied a series of one-and-dones—has inertia on its side. But basketball programs want more: the Pac-12 presidents have pitched the Power Five on making all freshmen ineligible to play.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino, then, is a rare voice speaking up against the moral and legal absurdity of barring an adult from working. At his press conference yesterday, Pitino said it's time to do away with the NBA's age limit, and managed to take a shot at John Calipari at the same time:
"I'm very much in favor of high school kids going pro," said Pitino. "I had six young men commit to me out of high school that didn't go to college, that went to the pros. I'm very much for that because they didn't want college. They wanted to go to the NBA. And if they go to the D-League, that's fine with them. But the six-, seven-month education, online classes second semester. I don't know what that does for a young person."
Pitino added: "Now, I'm different than, probably, the coach of Kentucky, who is having so much success with that."
There are plenty of good arguments against the age limit, and the one Pitino invokes—if this about getting an education, how can a single year of reduced-workload classes possibly provide any real benefit?—is a good one that should speak even to those who believe college players shouldn't be remunerated.
As for the Calipari shade, both of these guys are coaches who have maximized their own success under the rules as they are: Calipari's system just makes use of the athletes being restricted. If you're forced to spend one year in school, why not spend it at a place specifically designed to give you the chance to play with other NBA-ready talent, in an ideal showcase that'll help you get drafted higher when your year is up?
The immediate future of the age limit should be interesting. An NBPA lawyer has brought it up as something the union plans to fight to overturn during the next round of labor negotiations in 2017. I'm not sure I buy the adamancy, but it's certainly a bargaining chip both sides have—and might be willing to give up on to win concessions elsewhere.