- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2009

NO CLASS

Commissioner David Stern reportedly wants to raise the NBA minimum age from 19 to 20, and he has his reasons. Not among them, but a surefire effect, would be to foster more funny business in college basketball and make kids perpetuate the fraud of the “student-athlete.” Kids like Robert Dozier.

Dozier, suspected of cheating on his SAT, is at the center of yet another Memphis recruiting controversy. Apparently not by coincidence, school officials already are meeting with the NCAA to answer charges that former star Derrick Rose cheated on his admissions test.

But the stench goes way beyond Memphis or ex-coach John Calipari (now at Kentucky), whose reputation always has carried a whiff of hanky-panky. It permeates big-time college hoops - academically challenged athletes hogging scholarships and pretending to be students and a vast enabling system that keeps them happy in a variety of rule-breaking ways.

Stern candidly called the minimum age a “business decision” that allows the NBA to better evaluate its prospects. Fine. Left unsaid is that a lot of these players belong in college as much as your average political science major belongs in the paint trading elbows with Dwight Howard.

At least the current age (or one year of college) requirement defines the players, like Rose, last year’s No. 1 pick, as the mercenaries they are. One and done. Adding another year only increases the academic sham factor. It also means that coaches, boosters, street agents and shoe companies have to extend their resources and craftiness to provide the illegal inducements necessary to attract many of the best players.

It’s time for Stern to again welcome high schoolers, expanding both the draft and the development league. Let young players honestly ply their trade in a basketball-intensive environment, far from the classrooms they never see anyway. The NBA would keep close tabs on its prospects and, true to the D-League’s name, develop its talent. College would always be an option for those who can handle it. For those who can’t right now, the NBA can provide the means to go later on.

There are challenges and obstacles with this, but Stern’s a smart guy. And this kind of system seems to work pretty well in baseball and hockey (the NFL age requirement is three years out of high school, partly because younger players would get killed in the pros). College basketball would take a hit on the court, but it’s largely a regional game and fans would remain loyal to their programs. Meanwhile, maintaining educational hypocrisy and facing NCAA inquisitors doesn’t seem to be helping.

HE SAID WHAT?

“I want to offer an apology to Tommy.We made our decision, but …the end of it didn’t feel comfortable to me.” - Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz on the sudden release of Tom Glavine

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