Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Transitioning from the NCAA to the NBA: A Time for a Change in Rules

New article from the Huffington Post by Boston College's Warren K. Zola on the challenges student-athletes have in transitioning from the NCAA to the NBA under current rules.

The article starts:

"The recently concluded NCAA men’s basketball tournament has once again highlighted some of the very best amateur basketball talent in the country. While some players continued to showcase their exceptional talents, new stars also emerged in the considerable spotlight of the most watched basketball tournament in the world. Many of the college basketball fans, whose sheer size enabled the not-for-profit NCAA to recently sign a 14 year, $ 10.8 billion dollar rights agreement with CBS and Turner Broadcasting, now turn their attention to the 2011 NBA Draft which will be held on June 23rd.

This article calls attention to the challenges that student-athletes in the sport of college basketball have when trying to make a fully informed decision as they evaluate whether or not they should enter the NBA draft and forgo remaining college eligibility. While unique to men’s basketball, this precise situation highlights a more global trend in which colleges, conferences and the NCAA have done shockingly little to provide guidance and counsel as student-athletes across the country navigate the process of transitioning from college to professional leagues; an analysis put forth in a recently published law review article this past winter.

As is the case for every sport the process of entering the NBA is distinct and often confusing to those that have this opportunity."

To read the article in its entirety you may download it here.


Great article, Warren. Additionally, if the return to NCAA option is allowed, a protection for the student-athlete needs to be in place so that if his coach no longer has a scholarship for him, he would be allowed to freely transfer without having to sit-out. This would negate the "coach being held hostage" argument. He can give the scholarship away should he choose to.

Blogger Tim Epstein -- 4/20/2011 2:40 PM  

Tim, good catch. Neglected to include that caveat although I had it in a draft. When I get called to the NCAA to give my recommendations I'll be sure to include that addendum

Blogger Warren K. Zola -- 4/20/2011 2:59 PM  

What would happen if a player who says he is going to stay in college gets drafted. What is stopping him from going to play in the NBA. I feel like that would be the best option for guys like Barnes/Jones who want to stay the year, but if they end up getting drafted top 5 take the plunge. And the player doesnt have to make that decision

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/21/2011 3:43 PM  

In order to return to college, the player needs to remove his name from draft consideration. If a player does that, the NBA will not select him. Just as they wouldn't consider drafting Jared Sullinger or anyone else who returned.

Now the NBA could change their rules to mimic those of the NHL where a team retains a players rights even though a player returns to college--like they used to allow when Red Auerbach drafted Larry Bird before his junior year....

Blogger gabrielle -- 4/21/2011 8:34 PM  

For a player to return to college, they need to remove their name from the NBA draft. Once that is done the NBA won't select them.

However, in theory, the NBA could change their rules to mimic the NHL draft rules whereby a player may be selected by a team and that team retains their rights--even if they return to school.

Thus, a team could select Jared Sullinger this year, he returns to OSU, and the team retains his rights until he's chooses to enter the NBA.

Blogger Warren K. Zola -- 4/21/2011 8:38 PM  

The withdraw date under NCAA rules used to be after the NBA draft, which allowed undrafted players to retain their college eligibility and return to school. Two years ago, the NCAA revised its rules such that now the player must withdraw before the draft (May 8) and even before the NBA's mid-June withdrawal date, which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a player to make an informed decision whether to "take the plunge" as Anon put it. The NCAA's rationale for the rule change was the "coach being held hostage."

Changing the NBA's draft rule so that the team retains the rights to the player when the player returns to school doesn't work because under NCAA rules basketball players lose eligibility once drafted. The NCAA would also have to permit drafted basketball players to return to school so long as they don't sign a professional contract, but there's probably a greater chance of hell freezing over.

Anonymous Rick Karcher -- 4/22/2011 9:47 AM  

Thanks Rich. You answered my question. What I was thinking is if someone like Sullinger was drafted even though he "committed" to come back, as the #1 pick. I thought he would be able to sign that contract. But if I understand the comments, I guess that isn't allowed.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/22/2011 4:07 PM  

Rick, agreed with your analysis of the chances of the NCAA changing their rules. What's concerning is the NCAA's inconsistency in their rules--it's allowable for players to remain eligible if the NHL or MLB drafts them but not the NBA. Why? What is their rationale? And more importantly, is it rational?

Blogger Warren K. Zola -- 4/23/2011 8:14 AM  

Interesting question, and I'm not sure how the NCAA tries to rationalize it. The key question though, at least from a legal standpoint, is whether a court would view the rule as arbitrary and capricious if challenged. A compelling case could be made that it is arbitrary because, in our hypothetical here, the player has not signed a professional contract and has not relinquished an intent to maintain his eligibility in amateur sports (which is similar to what was argued in the Oliver case in regards to the no agent rule). Depending upon the particular facts and circumstances, the rule also has the potential to cause substantial economic damage.

Anonymous Rick Karcher -- 4/25/2011 6:39 AM  

Post a Comment