Tuesday, February 20, 2007

bucking the college hoops CW.

Last week's SI featured Texas forward Kevin Durant on the cover, complete with a billing of "Year of the Freshmen" for the impact he, OSU center Greg Oden, and UNC's Brandan Wright are playing this year, notching it to the NBA's age limit. It's hard to find a college coach who opposes the limit (and many I've read say it's not long enough), but you can always count on Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight, whether out of contrarian nature or the old-school idealism behind his approach to college ball, to speak his mind on the issue, and, boy, does he ever, calling it the worst rule he's seen in the history of college hoops. Why?

"Because now you can have a kid come to school for a year and play basketball and he doesn't even have to go to class," Knight said Monday. "He certainly doesn't have to go to class the second semester. I'm not exactly positive about the first semester. But he would not have to attend a single class the second semester to play through the whole second semester of basketball. That, I think, has a tremendous effect on the integrity of college sports."

Say what you will about Knight -- I have to others, though not on this blog -- about his conduct with players, his temper, anything else about his conduct, but like Dean Smith, Coach K, John Wooden and many others, he is college basketball, for better and for worse. You have to have grudging respect, if not a like, for a coach who seems to honestly believe that his players' graduation rates and non-basketball careers are more important than their NBA chances.

My opinion on the NBA's rule is that it has done some good for college hoops and the athletes who get to experience at least a year of school, but it's a middling solution. Either make it two years or don't do it at all. One year was and is a sort of cop-out, but at least it forces the high school prodigy to evaluate himself against college players and see if he really is ready for the draft. Currently, I'm sure Oden is; I think Durant needs to put on a bit more muscle and he's there. But despite the cynicism that surrounds major college athletics regarding money and the concept of the student-athlete, Knight's mouth is a useful reminder that there are still some idealists on the bench.

Awful Officiating also opines on Knight's comments.


Business or Leisure? said...

Here's the thing with the rule:
it is not as if it's going to make these kids work harder in school or anything, but it has a pejorative effect on how most people view the college basketball athlete. The great thing about kids going straight to the NBA, to me, was that guys were getting scholarships that had designs on improving their game and some would have even gotten a decent educ...
no, just kidding. College is for suckers. I'm with Bobby, sort of.

Signal to Noise said...

Most folks already viewed the "student-athlete" in Div I-A hoops or football with cynicism, if not outright suspicion. The rule doesn't actually help matters.

Either do like the NFL or open the floodgates. No half-assing.