The University of Kentucky, and especially first-year head coach John Calipari, recently pushed the limits in showing just how poor the “one-and-done rule” is for college basketball, which forces athletes to wait until their 19th birthday before declaring for the NBA draft. Calipari took his fight against the one-and-done rule to new heights this school year, when his ‘Cats posted a GPA of 2.025, falling far behind the school average of 2.91, the freshman average of 2.82, and putting the school last in the SEC among the nine schools who reported their team-GPA.
This is not the first time Calipari has campaigned against the ridiculousness of the one-and-done rule. In 2008, Calipari-led Memphis was forced to vacate it’s Final Four run after knowing about fraudulence or misconduct on the SAT of standout one-and-done Derrick Rose, a test he needn’t have taken had Rose been eligible to fulfill his dream after graduating high school.
Calipari is not the only coach to fight against the rule that effectively eliminates the “student” from “student-athlete.” Former USC coach Tim Floyd gave money to another famous one-and-done, OJ Mayo, currently of the Memphis Grizzlies, which helped expose the rule for it’s hypocritical nature: the NCAA wants to profit financially from these star players yet the players can’t gain any cash rewards until a year later.
These coaches should be commended, not condemned for their brave actions. Calipari and Floyd both see the harsh reality that a. prevents kids from realizing their dreams and b. prevents actual students from achieving their goals in the classroom. Is it fair that several Kentucky players occupy a spot in a classroom, knowing they are only there to fill a requirement for basketball and not actually reap the benefits of education, thus keeping out a student who won’t be getting millions of dollars after finals? If OJ Mayo were to get injured during his time at USC, would it be fair for the NCAA to soak up the revenue while OJ nurses a torn ACL instead of being drafted 3rd overall? Of course not.
They are fighting to change the one-and-done rule by so drastically exposing it’s flaws. Perhaps they share the dream Coach Mark Fox has, when he told me he’d like to see system more like college baseball: players are free to go to the pros out of high school but if they choose to come to college, must stay for a minimum of three years. This would enable kids to achieve their dreams of being professional athletes but also allow others to gain an education.
These crusades also point out yet another hypocrisy that is the NCAA: the playoff debate in football. If basketball players are allowed to cruise through college, two players on Kentucky earned a 1.66 and 1.76 respectively, why aren’t football players permitted to miss a couple of extra classes at the end of Fall semester? Of course, the proposed NCAA tournament expansion also begs this question, and perhaps Calipari began an early stand against this injustice by getting both of his Final Four appearances scrapped from the record books.
Praise should also be directed to UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, who ESPN.com reports will seek to keep Calipari with the ‘Cats “for the rest of his career.” Barnhart clearly has the foresight to sign Calipari to a long-term deal for his efforts against the seemingly-corrupt NCAA rather than his career basketball performances, which have yielded two vacated Final Fours (which may have been for noble causes as explained earlier) and zero National Titles, despite the 5 projected lottery picks last season and in 2008, a player who should have been ineligible (though again, Calipari’s moral compass likely guided that endeavor as well).
So congratulations is owed to these coaches for their demonstrations against the one-and-done rule. This rule keeps real students out of the classroom, as their spots are taken up by basketball players who need not be there, eliminates “student” from “student-athlete”, and allows the NCAA to make even more money off these amateur athletes who are forced to attend college and risk their childhood dreams. With any luck, Calipari’s mega-recruiting class coming into Kentucky this season will yield more examples of why this rule should be abolished as soon as possible.
Keep on fightin’ the good fight.