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Commentary: student athletes should have choice of when to go pro

Since the beginning of collegiate athletics and the birth of the NCAA, a war has been waging.

Should student athletes be paid?

These players, particularly in football and basketball, help bring in potentially millions of dollars at major universities, but because of NCAA restrictions, they are unable to profit from this themselves.

But if they want to make money, and have the talents to do so, why can’t they just skip a level and head straight to the professional ranks? Nothing is making these student athletes attend college, right?

Again the NCAA rears its ugly head.

Although certain sports like baseball and soccer currently have no restrictions on when an athlete can start making money in their given field, basketball players have the option to be “one-and-done” and head to the NBA after their freshman year, and football players can leave campus after three years.

ESPN reported that Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday that the idea of forcing athletes to attend a university before they go into the field is ludicrous.

“Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks. If they’re not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish,” Delany said.

These years spent in college are often for the protection of the players, and it would be incredibly difficult for a player to make the jump directly from high school to the NFL due to the change in speed. I tend to agree with Delany.

Before the NCAA and NBA implemented the rules in basketball that forced a player to wait at least a year before joining the league in 2005, there were numerous athletes who made the jump and succeeded. Players like Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in 1996, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard in 2004 and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett in 1995 have all been perennial All-Stars since joining the league. Not to mention the fact that Miami Heat forward Lebron James in 2003 will go down as one of the greatest players in the history of the game without ever playing a minute of college basketball.

Sure for every Lebron there is a Kwame Brown, center for the Philadelphia 76ers, that cannot cope with the speed and physicality, but they should be allowed to take that risk themselves.

If a player judges they are capable of holding their own in the league, that should be their choice and theirs alone, not one of a larger governing body.

In most other fields, this sort of thing would come off as utterly ludicrous. Imagine if Michael J. Fox or Justin Timberlake were forced to postpone their careers in entertainment for a couple of years because a group decided they needed the experience college could grant them.

Even if a player does have that extra experience, there is no guarantee they will become a star. Former Ohio State center Greg Oden is considered one of the NBA’s biggest busts because of suffering through a multitude of knee injuries. Oden even spent his required year in college instead of just jumping straight from high school.

While the discussion continues about whether or not players should be paid. it is time for a change in the NCAA rulebook.

The removal of a player’s requirement to attend college will slow, at least partially, the number of scandals involving student athletes being compensated that have surfaced in recent years.

Overall, a rule change would be beneficial to all parties involved, so it would only make sense if such a rule change were to be implemented.

Delany said it best.

“Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports?”

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