There’s a certain something that rings true in the headline of the New York Times profile of the situation surrounding the nation’s best high school player: “Everybody Wants a Piece of Nerlens Noel.”
The 4,500-word piece details Noel’s recruitment and the networks of former players, coaches, and advisers trying to surround him as he ascends to the college ranks and, most likely, the 2013 NBA draft.
This isn’t an unfamiliar story, the way adults flock to young stars, whether in movies, music, or athletics. As the buzzword “underbelly” of recruiting gets thrown around, the better question is how is this to be fixed, “fixed” in a way that eliminates exploitation?
The NCAA, thus far, has gone the route of prohibition. By cracking down in cases like those of Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli and Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright for impermissible benefit violations, the NCAA is taking the stance that enforcing the regulations will fix the problem, yet it continues.
Is there room for education and empowerment to fight the ills of the system?
A more concerted effort by the NCAA for comprehensive education systems to teach players and parents about the recruiting process would not only be an avenue to solve the problems and reduce the need for enforcement of violations, but would also be a strong public relations move in the face of what feels like a changing tide in the national opinion about the NCAA’s business model.
The restrictions of amateurism make monetary payment for work, legal and obligatory in all other spheres of the business world, illegal under NCAA bylaw, which leads to the biggest question yet, what can players do if they want monetary compensation?
The Atlantic wrote a lengthy piece published Wednesday about the idea of a strike by NCAA athletes, which would hurt the pockets of the NCAA, mostly by way of lost television revenue. Could it work? Would paying players expose the supposed “underbelly” of recruiting and shrink the problem, just as the end of the Prohibition Era in the United States almost eliminated its black market?
With the NCAA business model working its way into the mainstream of the national conversation, the NCAA will have critics to answer in the off-season, so stay tuned.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_