By Ken Reed

Kentucky’s John Calipari takes a lot of heat for recruiting one-and-done players that come to campus for a semester of basket-weaving classes and then go pro. However, conservative Duke University, and its basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, might be the new masters of the rent-a-high-school player (please don’t call them “student-athletes”).

Duke won the national championship this spring and three of their freshman have bolted for the NBA after one season, Jahil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones.

So, what does Coach K do? He goes after a high school junior to replace Jones and convinces him to “reclassify” as a senior. Derryck Thornton started the year as a junior at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas and will end it as a senior. How? Due to a technicality (Way back when, Thornton started school as a member of the class of 2015, which means he can reclassify himself from the 2016 class back to the 2015 class). Coach K thinks Thornton’s good enough to play right away. Whether he’s ready to handle the academic rigors of Duke is another question. Moreover, I’m not sure if asking a kid to give up his senior season is in the best interests of the kid. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s more in the best interests of Coach K.

Meanwhile, as Pat Forde ably points out in a piece for Yahoo! Sports, NCAA officials, college athletic administrators and coaches are more concerned with a rule that allows athletes that have graduated to transfer to another school and play immediately as a graduate student, if they still have eligibility left. Coaches and administrators don’t like the idea of losing control over players. They don’t like athletes having any choices. They don’t want them to have the freedom to seek another opportunity, as they themselves can do when another job offer falls on their desk.

The NCAA has said the possibility of amending the graduate transfer rule is near the top of the list of issues facing college sports. Really? How about concussions and the lack of consistent return-to-play guidelines? How about the economic injustice of capping athletes’ compensation at tuition, room and board while everyone else involved with college sports gets wealthy off those athletes? No, the NCAA wants to focus on gaining even more control of the athletes on their sports plantation.

Dear NCAA, going after athlete’s who have already earned a college degree, while allowing Coach K to court high school juniors who likely could be leaving campus after a single season is absurd. The “one-and-done” trend is what needs to be addressed, not the graduate transfer rule.

“This is not breaking news, but the one-and-done basketball matriculation from the NCAA to the NBA is the bigger academic sham,” wrote Forde. “Passing 12 credit hours of Intro to Breathing, not declaring a major and not entering into an advanced curriculum before leaving school is a clear refutation of the academic mission.”

Indeed, and the sham that is Big-Time College Sports marches on.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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