The rule that requires a basketball player to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school in order to be eligible for the NBA Draft is something that was put into effect by the NBA and its players association. And while new commissioner Adam Silver has stated on multiple occasions that one of this primary goals is to add another year to the rule, it will take the approval of the NBPA to get that done.
So where does college basketball sit in all of this? There really isn’t a whole lot the NCAA and its programs can do, outside of speaking with the decision makers who will decide the fate of said rule. However, in a letter sent to the members of the other four power conferences (football’s Power Five) the presidents of the Pac-12 have an idea of what to do should the NBA not raise its age limit.
That idea: bringing back the rule that made freshmen ineligible to play at the varsity level.
7. Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.
It should be noted that this was just one of the changes suggested by the presidents with the goal being to restore “academic primacy to the mission of intercollegiate athletics.” Other ideas stated include making sure athletes receive proper medical care for injuries suffered in practices of games, and making sure athletes remain on scholarship until they complete their degree provided they’re in good academic standing.
So some of those initiatives are well-meaning. But to consider making freshmen ineligible to compete? Not so much, especially when considering the fact that this move was suggested in just one sport: men’s basketball.
The NBA/NBPA requiring athletes to be two years removed from high school may not have much of an effect on how many decide to take an alternate route (D-League, Europe, etc.) to the NBA as opposed to attending college, because under that rule the player would be able to play college basketball. And if collegiate athletics were to go along with the idea of making freshmen ineligible, how many elite players would hang around for two years if the NBA didn’t require them to?
Sure some will argue that such a measure would keep those who seemingly don’t want to be in college from using it as a pit stop, but would that really be the case? The return of freshman ineligibility would likely mean the loss of player who, despite spending just one year in school, take full advantage of their time on campus. And for all the love given to productive upperclassmen, those elite freshmen are also capable of sparking enthusiasm amongst sports fans (see: last November’s Champions Classic).
And if the road to academic “reform” includes making freshmen sit, will the powers that be do anything to limit the amount of time teams spend on the road (especially in March)? Going to guess that there won’t be any changes on that front any time soon.