Sunday, September 12, 2021


When I was a youth, Lew Alcindor was the best collegiate freshman basketball player, but didn't play one minute for UCLA. Back then, NCAA member schools had a theory that keeping freshmen on the sidelines gave them time to adjust to college, get their priorities straight and set them up for future success. Alcindor had to be content with three years of varsity ball before turning pro (and changing his name to Kareen Abdul Jabbar). There were allegations that a character named Sam Gilbert showered UCLA players with illegal benefits back then.

How things have changed. The freshman prohibition ended in 1972. Now colleges are lucky to get one year out of the most highly-regarded basketball recruits. The top football players can turn pro three years out of high school. But that's a handful of guys. New rules make it much easier for players to change colleges. They can even get paid something over the table, thanks to a recent court decision.

Of course there was some hand wringing regarding these changes, and no doubt there will be some horror stories that come to light of nomads who go from school to school, squander what little money they make, and end up with a useless degree in exercise management. But there will be some who will take advantage of the changes the correct way, cram two useful college degrees into five years, make a little money along the way, and enter the real world set up for future success. The opportunity is there but equity is not guaranteed, and that's the way it should be.

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