The NCAA is slowly starting to catch up to reality.
In a dramatic change for the institution that brings it more in line with the coming high schoolers being able to be drafted into the NBA (in 2022, probably), the NCAA announced new rules will allow “elite” players to have contact with agents, then, if not drafted, return to play in college. Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had a good summary on Twitter.
This is a step in the right direction. One that should have been taken long ago, but a step.
It takes the risk out of declaring for the draft, right now players have to declare, not sign with an agent, get invited to the NBA’s pre-draft combine, get feedback from teams, then make their call. Every year guys go through the process and jump in only to go undrafted, and then they are stuck. Now a return to college is an option for them (but only if they were invited to the combine, those not invited would not be allowed to return, which in practice means few players will use it). All players can also have more college visits under the new rules.
When the NBA starts drafting youth out of high school again, a lot of young players are going to think they belong — or get bad advice from a family member/agent that they are ready — and jump in the waters to only go undrafted. Now that will not hang them up from going to college still. It will be interesting to see how the process plays out, will a player be able to, for example, “commit” to UCLA unless they get drafted?
This all comes in the wake of the FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting and the money that flows through it. These rules also will not drive the money out of the sport, a lot of it comes from the shoe companies (to get elite athletes to the colleges they sponsor) and that money will find a new path if the old ones are cut off. There also will be challenges with this new system (or any one put in place).
These moves are a start, and a good one. Personally, I would love to see a “baseball-style” system where if a player does choose to play in college he is committed there at least two seasons — so the player develops, to end the painful one-and-done era in college that is not good for the sport and, far more importantly, get closer to the idea that universities that should be about educating and providing chances to young athletes, not just exploiting them for cash.
Still, these moves are good first step by the NCAA.