With the NFL Draft behind us, and the NBA Combine getting started, talk has started to circulate in the media regarding the differences in the early entry process for the two sports. CBS Sports' writer Jon Solomon suggested that the time was right for the NCAA to revisit the rules because this year saw 31% of underclassmen go undrafted, including Syracuse Orange standout Ron Thompson. This number is only those athletes who didn't earn degrees, but still had eligibility remaining, or else it would be higher.
While it's one thing for media members to advocate for change, it's another when Head Coaches start doing the same. On Tuesday, Arkansas Razorbacks HC Bret Bielema said that he believes undrafted players should be allowed to return to college, and that he'd call some of his fellow SEC coaches to get their support. Bielema is certainly on to something, even if his idea that even drafted players should be allowed to return is a bit too much. As we saw with the satellite camp issue, when a lot of coaches start putting pressure on their admins, change can happen swiftly, so this is an issue to keep an eye on.
The new NCAA rules involving early entry NBA Draft candidates are a step in the right direction as they allow athletes, like Malachi Richardson, more time to gather information on their draft status. Yes, it makes things a little uncomfortable for coaches, but let's be honest, those should be able to figure out if their players are likely to return or not, and with 12 scholarships each year, they can adjust. If today's NCAA is moving towards truly doing what is best for the athletes, then giving them as much information and time as possible to decide on their future is necessary.
In football, athletes had to declare by January 18th when the NFL Draft was not until April. Once an athlete declared for the draft, they were unable to return to school and retain eligibility. It would make sense for the NCAA (I know, don't get me started) to explore similar rules for football as they use for other sports. If you are a baseball player selected in the MLB Draft, you have the ability to use an agent to help you make your decision. This should be the standard in every sport which has a Draft.
I know the NCAA worries about athletes working with agents, but it's happening now, and happening in ways which are pretty shady. Instead of spending time and resources fighting the "transfer epidemic" and those pesky graduate students using a loophole for their benefit, the NCAA schools and admins need to look at a consistent draft entry policy. Let the ethical agents assist athletes, and trust me they will help you enforce the shadiness. Let athletes explore their professional opportunities in a manner which gives them time and information. Some of them will still roll the dice, and that's ok, because in the end it should be their choice.
Let's hope that more coaches push the issue in the media, and then maybe we'll make progress in this area. What do you think, let me know in the comments.