Does age matter?
Apparently in the NFL and NBA it does!
Yesterday in Professor McCann’s Sports Law Seminar, the class discussed the imposition of age limits on both the professional basketball and football leagues. Why might the NBA and the NFL have such age limits, but the MLB and other professional sports do not?
Several explanations were passed around the class and the following were some of the more plausible reasons. Perhaps the league is interested in protecting their athletes physically. It might not be in the best interest of a “high school” player to drive down the lane with Shaq standing in their way. But what about players like KG, Kobe, Lebron, and T-Mac, all of which had clearly eaten their Wheaties? And why did the NBA all of a sudden change their age limit in 2006? Perhaps these sports are predominately comprised of star African-Americans, and race is the guiding the policy. Or perhaps these are the only two sports which have proven to be profitable for Colleges and Universities. How else will these institutions cash in on the “Flutie affect” and fund their other programs. Additionally, the NBA and the NFL do not have well developed and respected minor league systems. (Perhaps someone wants to argue the D-League is “developed”, but i am certain it pails in comparison to the minor league structure in baseball).
One thing is certain, OJ Mayo was born a year too late. As many of the readers may know, OJ Mayo never really intended to stay at USC. It was well know he was going to be one-and-done. OJ Mayo attended USC because he was prohibited by the age limits imposed on athletes hoping to enter the NBA. It is also alleged that while at USC Mayo accepted money from agents who were hoping to snag him as a client, although Mayo and his confidants adamantly reject these claims. If such allegations were true he would have ruined his eligibility as an amateur athlete. But who cares, he did not intend to nor want to play in college, the rules almost required him.
Where was OJ Mayo’s interest when NBA and the Players Union bargained for the age limits to be imposed? I am fairly certain the OJ Mayo’s, Brandon Jennings’, and Renardo Sidney’s were absent from the bargaining table when this was agreed upon.
How should the NCAA react to the NBA and NFL’s misgivings about age. Perhaps answering the critic’s questions would be a good start. But beside just answering questions, perhaps their is more the NCAA can do. Prof. McCann suggests some ways in which college sports can be cleaned up. First the NCAA can spend its resources in discovering under-the-table payments to college athletes. Second, the NCAA should enforce its already existing rules regarding such payments. Currently the rules have no teeth. The Reggie Bush incident has drawn on for years and Bush is long gone. Third, college athletes should receive increased payments. A scholarship is not enough, incidentals should also be covered. White v. NCAA could be a move in the right direction. Fourth, the NCAA could open up college athletes to the free-market. However, this would have negative impacts on Title IV and the NCAA would lose its tax exemption status. Fifth and finally, college athletes could be opened up to the international market. The international market has been opened up to certain athletes, but restrictions are still in place.