Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives’ Club of Boston
March 12, 2014
TAKEAWAY: Player Eligibility
I think historically when we’ve talked about our minimum age—so it was 18. Two collective bargaining agreements or so, we raised it to 19, and then we proposed raising it to 20. But historically, college basketball hasn’t had a seat at the table for those discussions.
So I’ve gone to Mark Emmert and said, "You obviously have a strong vested interest in us raising the age limit, but we need to talk holistically about what it means for these players." Because for example, when I was a kid, there were players in the NBA—you’d hear such-and-such played—you’d see him playing for college, but you’d hear that the Celtics owned his draft rights and things like that.
So it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case that a player hires an agent and then the player loses his eligibility. That’s what happens now in college.
I’d also say even the one and done is a bit of a misnomer. What typically happens is even in the very best programs, the kids have to maintain their eligibility in the first semester and go to classes and do whatever’s required, but the second semester, it becomes all about the tournament.
And it’s a full-time job, in essence, preparing for the tournament, playing those games on the road. And then for the very elite kids, the truly one and done kids, they in essence leave school at whatever point they lose in the tournament or if they win the whole thing. That becomes their last day, and then they train full time for the NBA draft in June.
So I think maybe the mistake historically is we looked at the issue too narrowly. And first of all, just so it’s clear, we the league don’t have the unilateral authority to raise the age. It has to be collectively bargained with our union, and so they have an important seat at the table.
But what we’ve started talking about already is maybe using this entity, which is called USA Basketball, which oversees our national teams, our Olympic teams, and happens to be run by Jerry Colangelo, who’s a former NBA owner.
And I’ve said to Jerry, I think you can play a strong role in bringing all the various constituent pieces together, including youth basketball, as I mentioned. These so-called values of the game, we have to begin with these kids, boys and girls, at a very young age in order to teach them to play the game the right way and to have the fundamentals.
There’s clearly self-interest involved from the NBA’s standpoint, but to your point, I also see a moral obligation. I know our owners do, on behalf of the sport.