As the greatest weekend in sports is upon us, it’s time for me to reveal the secret on how to fix college basketball. And when I say fix, I mean help these teams score more than 50 points in a game. Georgia State and Georgia Southern had a conference championship a week ago that ended at 38-32. After 40 minutes of basketball. Klay Thompson, of the Golden State Warriors, scored 37 points in a quarter of an NBA game that only lasts 12 minutes. Just let that marinate for a second. Don’t get me wrong, it’s as competitive as it’s ever been but the quality and skill of college basketball is severely lacking.
It’s ok though for I have come up with a solution. It didn’t take me very long to come up with this and it’s actually pretty simple. Are you ready? It’s going to blow your mind that you didn’t come up with it sooner. One of those moments where you sit back, take a deep breath and go “Wow…that’s genius!”
Alright, maybe you don’t go as far as the last scenario but here we go:
PAY THE ATHLETES!
So right now you’re either shaking your head trying to figure out why you’re reading this in the first place or you’re still trying to pick your jaw up off the floor. Hopefully it’s the ladder. But I am dead serious. Just pay the athletes already. Who are we kidding? What is wrong with a college athlete earning an income and earning money off of their namesake? Just pay them already. It’s that simple.
Don’t give me the whole, “They get a free education!” argument. How many schools have recently gotten sanctioned by the NCAA for allowing their “student athletes” to slide through classes so that they can stay eligible and continue winning games on the football field or basketball court? And outside of the schools that have gotten caught, you can guarantee every other school in the country is trying the same tactics. It’s an education that’s meaningless. It’s not preparing these kids for life after their professional career runs it course. It’s gotten to the point where we had Andrew Wiggins — last year’s number one pick in the NBA draft — literally say out loud in an interview that he was just trying to enjoy school while he was there. He was already pegged as the number one pick and school wasn’t even on the radar while he was at Kansas last year.
This has not only made college basketball almost unwatchable but it’s also diluting the NBA game to a certain degree. Imagine if the NCAA mandated the same rule for the NFL about having to wait to be three years removed from high school before you can declare to become a professional athlete. Think about what that would do to the college game. First of all, the talent pool would start to spread out instead of heading straight for the Kentucky’s and Carolina’s and Duke’s of the game. These kids that come out of high school want to be playing immediately, mostly because they think they can compete and because they want that exposure to start as soon as possible for when they try to turn professional. If Kentucky and Duke and Carolina are already loaded and running lineups that go eight or nine deep down the bench then players are going to look elsewhere when they decide what school to attend. If they want to play immediately, they may decide to go to some of the smaller, but still elite programs like a Purdue or NC State or St. Johns. Those teams that can field competitive teams but never have those standout superstars that always end up at the same schools year after year like they do now.
Now imagine what some of those elite teams today look like if players were required to stay in school for at least three years. If Anthony Davis stayed at Kentucky through his senior year, that would be this year! That Kentucky team would be unbelievable. Not to mention Nerlins Noel would still be required to be there. You literally would not be able to get into the paint on that team. Duke would still have Jabari Parker, Arizona would have Aaron Gordon, Kansas would have Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. The level of skill in college basketball, the continuity on these teams, and the competitiveness would be off the charts. It would actually be enjoyable to watch as opposed to Virginia (who lost three games this year) struggle to score 45 points in 40 minutes of basketball. As I’m typing this, Dayton and Boise State are in a barn burner with seven and a half minutes left to play and neither team has reached 50 points yet. One of the teams hadn’t cracked 30 by the time we were halfway through the second half. For those that aren’t counting, that’s 30 minutes of basketball having been played already.
Anyways, in order for these players to have the motivation to stick around and play college basketball in the U.S. for three years rather than just hop across the Atlantic Ocean and go play in Europe is that they have to be getting paid. So many basketball players come from backgrounds where wealth is not common, that their sole motivation for playing the game is getting those paychecks. The players that are ready to play NBA basketball by the time they are 18 years old don’t want to be in college wasting their time or offering themselves an opportunity to get hurt because there are millions of dollars waiting on them in the NBA, whether it’s through their NBA contract or through endorsements. How to determine how much these guys actually get paid is a different discussion and one that I’m not qualified to write about because I’m not an economist or financial planner and I don’t pretend to be one. But there has to be a way to fairly compensate these players.
But college basketball has to do something about the current state of the game. It is just so difficult to sit down and watch college basketball games these days when teams can’t play offense. There isn’t any continuity on these teams and the gameplay reflects it. Meanwhile, the NCAA is determined to never allow college athletes to make money during their career and they are just using these “student athletes” as unpaid interns. Get as much work and value out of them without having to forfeit any of the profit that they make off these interns work before they head for greener pastures aka the NBA. It took the face of the National Champion UConn Huskies last year, Shabazz Napier, to make a public statement about how he used to go sleep at night hungry after not being able to afford a meal before the NCAA allowed scholarship athletes to eat for free. Meanwhile the NCAA has a multi-billion dollar TV contract with CBS for the rights to broadcast the NCAA tournament. Yes, multi-BILLION.
Obviously, starting to pay the players isn’t going to solve all of college basketball’s problems. It would be a start though. To be honest, as I’m typing this I feel like I’m just using this as an excuse to petition for college athletes to get paid. I’ve felt strongly about this stance for a while now. If you think about it, college athletics is the only billion dollar industry in the world where the employees (the athletes) are not compensated for their work. College athletes work for free. They spend their entire day, every day, around whatever sport they play. 5 a.m. workouts, classes, afternoon practices, study halls, you name it. Their entire day revolves around their sport. And they receive no compensation for it. The majority of them live below the poverty line. Well, most university students do that but they also have the time and energy to get a part time job to have expendable income.
So, yea maybe I’m just writing this to vent some more about how much of an injustice it is that college athletes don’t get paid, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong. Let the college athletes get paid and it’s bound to improve the college game as athletes won’t be fleeing for the pro’s as soon as they can. They can also work on that, you know, college degree that will also really help them in the long run. Pay the athletes NCAA. The time has come.