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Monday, January 18, 2010
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Speaks out Against NBA Age Eligibility Rule
ESPN's Henry Abbott has a great interview with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who is a critic of the NBA's eligibility restriction, which requires that a player be 19 years old plus one year removed from high school in order to be eligible for the NBA Draft (the rule was negotiated in 2005; previously, players could join the NBA right after finishing high school). The NBA and the Players' Association will be negotiating a new CBA in the near future and the age limit will likely be a source of tension between the two bargaining units.
Here are some excerpts from Abbott's interview with Secretary Duncan:
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Henry Abbott: The negotiations for the NBA's next collective bargaining agreement will be mainly about money. (Owners, who have been dipping into their own pockets to keep the fires burning through a frosty economy, want more of it.)
But perhaps the hottest issue will be about a different set of numbers: The age of NBA players. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and the like were once drafted straight out of high school. Four-and-a-half years ago, the NBA declared players had to be one year out of high school before going pro. The result has been a rash of "one-and-done" NCAA players. The NBA has expressed an interest in extending the ban for an additional year, which will be an issue in upcoming negotiations with the player's union.
Meanwhile, a growing number of people are eager for the age rule to be eliminated.
On Thursday, the latter group appeared to gain an influential ally in U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Once a star player at Harvard -- one of his coaches there was current Celtic assistant coach Tom Thibodeau -- and a former professional player in the Australian league, Duncan is passionate about basketball. Speaking to university and NCAA officials in Atlanta, the former chancellor of Chicago's public schools said that the higher education of some basketball players was a "farce."
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Henry Abbott: But you would let players go straight to the NBA from high school if they were LeBronesque.
Secretary Duncan: Yes. That tiny tiny percentage.
Henry Abbott: Who would determine if they're in that category or not?
Secretary Duncan: I think the market would determine that. If they want to do that, great. If it works out, great. But 99.99% of players don't fall in that category. I'm interested in better serving those guys. I want to give them the kind of quality experience, in the community, in the college, on the court that's going to really help prepare them for whatever comes next, whether that's the pros or getting a good job. Being part of the rich cultural and social life of a university has incalculable benefits.
If folks are doing the wrong thing, you stain the university, you stain the programs, you stain the NCAA.
This has got to be about values. The vast majority of programs, I think, are instilling the right values. I am forever personally indebted for my experience to my coaches and my athletic director. Every day I think about the lessons that I learned playing. I want that to be the norm. I want every kid to have the kinds of opportunities that I was lucky enough to have.
* * *To read the rest, click here. To read an op-ed by Secretary Duncan on The Hufington Post (hat tip to Ryan Rodenberg) click here. For a similarly provocative interview between Abbott and Sonny Vaccaro about the NBA's eligibility rule and Brandon Jennings, see Part I, Part II, and Part III.