March 26, 2009

Fixing the NCAAs

Now that the NBA requires one of college basketball (or European pro play) before it will draft young stars, the NCAA basketball tournament has become much like American Idol, with a different cast each year. This has its appealing side, but it's also lacking in continuity. It's not like the 1984 NCAA championship game, when super centers Patrick Ewing of Georgetown and Akeem Olajuwon of Houston, both of whom had lost heartbreaking final games in previous seasons, fiinally faced off.

This year, I haven't been paying any attention all season so all I know about the participants is that there's this giant homeschooled mulatto kid and his older brother on one of those schools in Oklahoma.

Personally, I would like to see college players stick around longer. For example, Kevin Love was an All-American as a freshman last year at UCLA because of his Bill Walton-like skills. His father Stan Love played for Portland in the NBA. (His father's brother Mike Love is a Beach Boy.) He looked awesome through the first four rounds of the tournament, until he ran into Memphis's NBA-quality athletes in the semifinal, where he looked short and slow.

So, he might not have personally carried UCLA to an NCAA championship, but what a team player to recruit around. If he had announced he was staying all four years, UCLA could have recruited star guards and forwards for a year or two of NCAA glory. And Love, with four years at UCLA and the hereditary Beach Boy connection, would have been a lifelong god in LA no matter what he did in the NBA.

Except, they don't pay you to play college basketball.

So, he went pro, was drafted #5, and is guaranteed $5.4 million over his first two seasons. He's playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 25 minutes per night, and, while he's not doing much scoring or passing, he's leading all rookies in rebounds per game with 9.0.

He and his dad are very sharp basketball minds, so they probably made the right decision

What top college players can do to make sure they get paid eventually is borrow money to buy disability insurance policies that pay off if they never sign a pro contract due to injury. A few dozen college basketball players do that each year. But few pay off because just about everybody who's highly ranked enough to be eligible to get an insurance policy (insurance companies don't want to write policies on players who just aren't good enough to make enough money to pay back the loans) will sign some kind of pro contract. Insurance polices that guarantee you a certain amount of income are more expensive.

But why should players have to borrow their premiums? Let the teams' boosters pay. The NCAA could have a rule where each college gets to pay for income insurance for, say, one player per class (i.e., a maximum of four at a time). This would encourage more players to stay in college, where they really do get better coaching in fundamentals, provide continuity, but keep a few teams from stockpiling all the best players.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

32 comments:

robert61 said...

Interesting idea. Remind me again why it's desirable for an institution of higher learning to have its own professional basketball team.

eh said...

Forgive my superficial, first impression judgements, but with all the tatoos etc (ahem) there is something of a ghetto look to some games, which only reinforces the suspicion that many of these players do not belong in college ('student athletes') at all. Not really.

Remind me again why it's desirable for an institution of higher learning to have its own professional basketball team.

$

Anonymous said...

I thought Love would be a bust, 9 rpg and 25 minutes is very good for a rookie, though he was drafted pretty high I guess.

It might be better to go the Canadian junior hockey route for sports, maybe not. They get 1 year university paid for for every year they play junior, most attend high school and they are strict about attendance and studying. They get paid like $100 a week, but they can get drafted at 18, sign a contract, do endorsements, and still play junior until 20. They're getting taken advantage of a bit I suppose, but the girls make up for it I imagine.

Make it junior football and basketball up to 20, create more semipro leagues, and decouple it all from schools. I'm just throwing it out there. Let them sign contracts at 14 if they want as long as they attend school until graduation. Redirect college sport funding to academics. Rick Telander wrote an article proposing something similar a few years back. He was a white wide receiver at Northwest Wisconsin State or some such place and had a job delivering pizzas back in 1970 or whenever, technically illegal under NCAA rules. Let them deliver pizza, I say!

Signed,
Jerry Tarkanian's assistant
(He's busy playing beer pong with LJ, Lloyd Daniels, El Hud, and UNLV co-eds in the Northeast wing)

josh said...

While the tournament is fun, the NCAA is just minor league basketball. I'd rather see international competition become a bigger deal than encourage more people to play below their level.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. College sports should be strictly amateur, IMO. Shouldn't even be televised. Even scholarships to run around with a ball are questionable.

Acilius said...

"Remind me again why it's desirable for an institution of higher learning to have its own professional basketball team."

Because it gives colleges a way to keep the interest of alumni, who give lots of money, and to get millionaires into a room where they can be sweet-talked out of large donations. Also, publicity in general has a big influence on the prestige of a college, as I believe has been discussed on this site before.

But I think colleges could accomplish those objectives just as well by sponsoring teams consisting of athletes who were openly paid for their work as by the current system. If part of that pay is a voucher redeemable for schooling at some later date, that would fine.

Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy the tourney, and in certain circumstances, I still do. But with most players unable to conjugate verbs, and not actually college students, the whole shebang is not worth watching any more.

I too long for the days of Kent Benson, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, and others who went the distance in college.

Gone baby gone.......

ironrailsironweights said...

There's evidence that having good football and basketball teams improves the number and quality of a university's applicant pool. Should be a strong incentive for them to pay for disability insurance if the NCAA allows them.

Peter

Shawn said...

I am not sure if it is a good thing for taxpayer money to go towards financing college b-ball players' college careers.

Truth said...

"Remind me again why it's desirable for an institution of higher learning to have its own professional basketball team."

Because it brings in billions of dollars to build facilities elsewhere?

Regarding Love, he did look outclassed against Memphis, but he has rebounded to have a very good rookie year, Kevin McHale was pilloried early for trading OJ Mayo for him, but I think down the road it will be revealed that he made the right decision.

MacSweeney said...

I absolutely despise college sports, the worship of them, and the way people get scholarships just to play them, even going so far as to give them leniency on bad grades. I understand that college sports give the schools income, but it is still a broken system. No matter how you try to justify it, a stupid kid who is good at basketball being awarded a college scholarship for the sole purpose of propping up the basketball team, over a smart nerd is wrong. Higher education institutions should be about academia, PERIOD.

I like the system Canada has for hockey. The best high school kids in the country play in a "Major Junior" league called the CHL. These hockey clubs are tied to cities, not schools. Once they turn 21, they aren't allowed to play Major Junior anymore, and are drafted by an NHL team at or before this point if they are good enough.

Jim O said...

True or false: the last American-born white palyer to have an impact in the NBA was Larry Bird.

Jim O said...

I did say American born WHITE player, right? If not, that's what imeant.

Anonymous said...

Because it brings in billions of dollars to build facilities elsewhere?


Yeah, like new stadiums!

Acilius said...

@Jim O: How big an impact? If you mean making a lasting contribution to the way the game is played, then John Stockton is an obvious example. If you mean an impact on a superstar scale, then no, I can't of anyone since Bird.

Truth said...

"True or false: the last American-born white palyer to have an impact in the NBA was Larry Bird."

You would have to define "impact" but I would say false, probably Chris Mullin or John Stockton, but even they were quite a while ago.

Epicurean said...

Interesting idea. Remind me again why it's desirable for an institution of higher learning to have its own professional basketball team.

Because of a certain 19th century British upper-class idiom which says "All work but no play makes Jack a bloody nuuuuuurd!"

(Strange, but all the mindless muscle-twitching in compulsory phys-ed classes felt more like work, even slave labour, than play. But that's just me.)

I like the system Canada has for hockey.

That, or the European and Japanese system of corporate sports sponsorship.

Anonymous said...

Chris Mullin wasn't bad, but point taken.

Anonymous said...

You guys are misguided. College sports programs lose lots of money, even the handful of programs that declare a modest profit aren't actually profitable after looking past the accounting tricks (i.e. most programs don't pay maintenance for there facilities, the university does) . Secondly the latest studies seem to show that while donations may increase if a school has success in football or basketball the donation to the athletic program not the universities general fund. The only tangible benefit to the university is perhaps some increased visibility for the few schools that are successful. But most programs never achieve anything of note besides fleecing students of student fees, screwing over the athletes and transferring the proceeds to coaches, television networks, while operating a free minor league network for the NBA and the NFL.

Truth said...

Hey, I forgot Tom Chambers, the blackest whiteman who ever played!

Anonymous said...

Top 20 basketball and football programs bring in vastly more money than they absorb, allowing the said schools to fund some of the lesser men's and almost all the women's sports programs. Absent UConn and Tennessee, women's basketball teams pretty much play in front of friends and family.

Why the animus toward the college athlete? The trumpet player in the music program is no different from the athlete; he or she brings a certain talent that has little or nothing to do with academics. And let's just be honest admit that the money generated by the Notre Dame football program has built WAY more dorms and classrooms than the Notre Dame band!

Brutus

ben tillman said...

True or false: the last American-born white palyer to have an impact in the NBA was Larry Bird.

False. Kevin McHale was an impact player and was one year younger than Bird. Mark Price and
John Stockton also qualify. Who else?

Anonymous said...

"Top 20 basketball and football programs bring in vastly more money than they absorb, allowing the said schools to fund some of the lesser men's and almost all the women's sports programs. Absent UConn and Tennessee, women's basketball teams pretty much play in front of friends and family.

Why the animus toward the college athlete? The trumpet player in the music program is no different from the athlete; he or she brings a certain talent that has little or nothing to do with academics. And let's just be honest admit that the money generated by the Notre Dame football program has built WAY more dorms and classrooms than the Notre Dame band!

This simply isn't true. College sports programs don't make money. They lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year. If you have some numbers that say different I'd like to see them because pretty much all the numbers indicate the opposite.
Also the distinction between basketball and football and other sports is spurious. These programs are used by the athletic departments as fig leaves. Raising graduation rates and GPAs for the athletic department, and otherwise obscuring the fact they are running money losing minor leagues for the NFL and NBA.

Pay the players. Stop pretending they are college students. Stop the pretense that college basketball and football aren't minor leagues and let the NBA and NFL subsidize them. Let them keep the college names, just change the funding source from students and state legislators and move it to the people who directly benefit from it.

rast said...

Robert61: These universities already do have what are effectively minor-league professional basketball teams. They pay their players almost nothing, but the teams themselves are still immensely lucrative.

You would not say that a Chinese automobile factory was "not a real business" just because their employees are unpaid political prisoners; the factory owner still builds and sells automobiles at a profit.

Reg C├Žsar said...

[Kevin] Love, with four years at UCLA and the hereditary Beach Boy connection, would have been a lifelong god in LA no matter what he did in the NBA...

But...

he went pro... He's playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves...



Aw, gee... Minnesota spolled basketball in Los Angeles this season.

Seems to me LA did something similar to Minnesota once, too.

Anonymous said...

I would say false, probably Chris Mullin or John Stockton

Stockton was probably the greatest point guard to ever play. He set records that will stand for a very long time. He never got the rings but I'd make the case that he was better than Bird.

Anonymous said...

Anon, these schools have athletic programs, bringing in academically-substandard "student/athletes" and building these huge sports complexes, to lose money?!

You obviously discount the television money. CBS just signed a $6 BILLION contract with the NCAA to broadcast the basketball tournament for the next 11 years!

Again, why are athletics bad and music departments good?

Extra credit question-which university fields the most varsity sports teams?

Brutus

Jim O said...

Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I had said Stockton when talking to friends about this recently. Every one said I must be wrong, but could't name anybody, except that guy from Canada tht most people assume is American. After reading your ideas, I'd say Stockton was the last, and I agree about the other guys. Impacts, yes. Superstars, no.

Ronduck said...

Truth said...

Because it brings in billions of dollars to build facilities elsewhere?

Actually Truth, many of those facilities that are built with sports money are only needed because too many students who are not qualified are admitted to college. If the number of students was reduced to only those who are qualified, then we wouldn't need the extra academic facilities, or the sports teams to fund them. And I'm assuming that college sports teams make money in order to contribute to their sponsoring college.

Truth said...

"Actually Truth, many of those facilities that are built with sports money are only needed because too many students who are not qualified are admitted to college."

OK, so you eliminate the billions of dollars created by the basketball and football programs, and you also eliminate revenue created by 25% of the student body who are "unqualified" to be college students (who pay tuition and fees, and later donate as alumni), yet you will still maintain a first class university: Mr. Bernake, so nice of you to give your opinion on this thread.

Mark said...

If sports teams were not known or strongly believed to benefit the college or university somehow, in some way, then more colleges would be cutting them. They aren't. Whether it's actual income or compensation in-kind, the guys looking at the bottom line seem to think they're worth the money. Occam's razor.

Ronduck said...

Truth said...

...and you also eliminate revenue created by 25% of the student body who are "unqualified" to be college students (who pay tuition and fees, and later donate as alumni),yet you will still maintain a first class university

YES! Thw whole point is to have colleges only do what they were created to do, not ten other things. Some minor colleges may have to close, but the remaining ones will better educate those qualified to attend since they won't have so many distractions.