College Basketball: Business with the NBA
NCAA Basketball in general, is a funny thing. A place where armatures compete only hoping to one day make it to the NBA. However, we’ve all seen the commercials. You know the ones, where they are telling us that 99% of them go pro in something other than sports. While the advertisement itself is as cheesy as they come, it’s a true statement. But even though it’s true, something has to be understood, college basketball is a business and business has been relatively down.
Even though your favorite player from your favorite program isn’t necessarily getting paid to play hoops they are expected to treat it as such. An athlete’s only benefits playing in college is a scholarship and the ability to showcase their skills to a large audience. The university itself seems more than happy to use the player to make money only to discard them when their eligibility is up. Often, the young person is not prepared for the real world and this causes image problems for the already maligned NCAA.
Image is a huge issue facing the NCAA and it needs to be fixed. Helping, by not using, the athletes will go along way in restore their it. To do so, the NCAA would need some help from the NBA. Whatever reasons the NBA would have in helping college basketball would be for their own selfish desires. That’s not saying the 2 entities couldn’t work up a deal where both leagues benefit.
One issue the NBA’s owners and league office want addressed is the age limit in which players can enter the NBA Draft. Currently set at 19 years old, the age limit is not where the league wants it set. David Stern has openly admitted he would like a minimal of 2 years out of High School with a preference for 3.
Tackling the professional side of this, the NBA needs already marketed stars and finished products soon as the players hit their league. Generally speaking, a player who comes out as a freshman isn’t heard from until his third or fourth year in the league. Also, 1 and done players give NBA scouts far less time to find out who’s a beast and who’s going to be a bust.
By keeping the athletes in school for 3 years helps the NBA in the ways having 1 and dones hurt them. General Managers, owners, and the like will have more time and lose less money when it comes to getting young players out of the draft. Therefore, when a team is in the lottery, the likelihood of a team getting a productive player(who happens to be ready to contribute year 1) is much higher.
Don’t sleep on the marketing aspect on this either. Unless you’re a college hoops die-hard you won’t know that freshman sensation from the Pac-12 until March Madness. Only then will you get to see a few games out of him until his team gets eliminated and he declares for the draft. All you know about this kid is that Dick Vitale told you he is good and that he played pretty well in 3 tournament games. That’s not a player who’s going to draw huge ratings on draft night or for a city to build a public relations buzz around.
The genius in keeping the kid in school for 3 years is now the nation knows him, even if it’s only from his 3 March Madness tournament appearances and not his regular season. A player more widely known is obviously a better player to market and likely a better chance at a rating spike come draft night(Let’s be honest, nobody is tuning in to see Bradley Beal get drafted).
The NCAA can also garner a much needed boost by having these age restrictions set. The reason they need the NBA is that it’s the NBA who can set these rules not a fictional building overseeing college athletics. The NCAA would use what I just explained as their sales pitch to David Stern in hopes he takes the bait. If the NBA were able to set up this age limit the NCAA can actually benefit by a much greater margin. Oddly enough, for the same reasons.
Marketing in the NCAA has to be one of the trickiest things to do. Generally, the best players in the land are freshmen and the nation has no clue who they are. While the NBA markets its stars the NCAA is still stuck pushing their programs. This can change with the age restriction.
Even the casual fan watches the NCAA tournament every March. You, your mom, your boss, and even that lady down the street with 12 fingers will fill out a bracket. It’s the one time of the year when everyone is fixated on the world of college hoops. A few years ago Davidson’s Stephon Curry captured the nation’s collective hearts while leading the small school on an impressive run in the tourney. Even better for the NCAA, Curry came back the following year helping the NCAA use his national popularity to help market the sport. This was a rare instance of having a marketable star returning to the sport.
The NCAA can have this every year. While millions tune in to see the Club St. Pool Cleaners upset North Carolina, they will see budding superstars who will still have 2 years of eligibility left. Get your mother emotionally attached to a kid and she will turn in next year, eager to see if he succeeds or fails. Times that by a few million and the droves of new fans the NCAA has garnered will up their ratings.
In fact, with more talent coming back year in and year out, parody will now rule the courts of college hoops. ESPN top 100 players are not going to sit behind a sophomore point guard for 2 years before getting a chance to shine. Instead they will have to choose a new school, maybe 1 outside the traditional powers all basketball fans have been accustomed to.
Player “X” will narrow his choices down to North Texas State and Binghamton. The fact that schools of that caliber will be in play for over hyped recruits only benefits the sport. More competition in every conference and a more competitive March Madness(where a 16 can actually beat a 1). Having that much talent spread around the country will help get more quality games get on the picture box, higher ratings again.
This is just a plan where 2 leagues can use each other and still make out financially on each end. The NFL, NBA, and college football are way ahead in the ratings game compared to college hoops. Ratings is how all these leagues make money, and as we all know, money is what drives these universities. After all, it is just a business.
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