Stay In School: Rant on College Players Leaving Early

The dynamic of a college sports team is unique. Rosters are ever changing because of graduating seniors and incoming freshmen, and the occasional transfer. It’s a lot for a coach to handle, and those who consistently field a national powerhouse deserve a ton of credit. There’s another part of that dynamic. A part that I wish coaches didn’t have to deal with, and that tends to infuriate me: The athlete who leaves early to go chase the green paper. This rant is directed right at those greedy individuals, basketball players specifically.

I’ll start by admitting that a lot of my frustration is the result of a rule change the NBA made just about eight years ago—after LeBron James was drafted out of high school—that required players to play a least one year on a collegiate team before being able to enter the NBA draft. Because of this rule, college teams that land the top recruits in the nation are basically renting a player (or five if you’re John Calipari) for one year before the inevitably jump ship for the Association.

Maybe my frustration also stems from the fact that Syracuse, who was already graduating two top-tier seniors in Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, lost Dion Waiters and Fab Melo (both sophomores) to the NBA.

Maybe this frustration goes back even further to 2003, when SU won the national title, only to have the man who led that team—Carmelo Anthony—leave school after one year. It all worked out for him though, he got his banner, and his name on the campuses state-of-the-art athletic facility. Thanks for all you did, Melo, in that one season…

Did that come off bitter? I hope so.

Any fan of any college team should be bitter when their team is loaded, runs deep in the tournament, and then has everyone bail before they can even celebrate their national title.

Wall (11), Cousins (15), and Bledsoe (24) all jumped ship after one year

Just look at Kentucky this year—or every year. Anthony Davis, this year’s national player of the year, and NCAA Tournament MVP, a freshman will be going to the draft along with his teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, another freshman. The Wildcats were the clear number-one team in the country for a better part of this season and dominated on their way to the school’s eighth national title. Imagine what kind of season they could have had next year or two years from now when their young stars were seasoned veterans. Maybe they rip off two or three more titles over the next three years.

How about the 2009-2010 Kentucky team, who didn’t win the national title (they lost in the Elite 8 to West Virginia), but had four of their starting five players get drafted after that season. Three of those four were just freshman who carried the team—John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe

Just think about this starting five: Wall, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Cousins, Bledsoe. I don’t think you could find a better one-through-five in the country in the last few years. They would’ve had two years together if they all played out their collegiate careers.

Imagine what Carmelo could have done if he played three more years with Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara. Maybe the Orange would have more than one national title. Melo, maybe you could’ve gotten two or three buildings with your name. How about this: Drop Carrier and make it the Carmelo Dome? I guess we’ll never know.

Oh, what could have been…

For these elite teams, a star athlete leaving early usually only stings for a short period of time though thanks to their strong recruiting pipelines. But the fact is, it does sting. I feel like I’m being betrayed. The kid I was just rooting for, who played because he loved the game, just left all that innocence behind to go make big bucks. It leaves a pit in my stomach. I feel like I’m being stabbed in the back. They’re a turncoat.

Am I overreacting? Maybe.

Am I the one being greedy? Possibly.

But why not stay those extra few years? Work on perfecting your game at this level, and show me that you’re willing to finish something you started—that degree. Hell, just stay and enjoy college life. Whatever I have to say, I’ll say it if you just stick around for your four years of eligibility so I can feel fulfilled.

Like I started out saying, though, a lot of this could have been avoided if the NBA stuck with their old rule, allowing high school seniors to be drafted. It’s not like they’re protecting someone’s physical well-being like the NFL did with their draft-eligibility requirements. If a kid wants to and has the ability to play in the NBA at that age, let them. Don’t make them tease college fans for a year and then rip their hearts out when they bounce off campus.

End rant.


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Categories: BLOG


I'm an editor for Associations Now, a magazine pubished by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. I live in Springfield, VA with my amazing wife, and am enjoying the ride that life is taking me on.


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  1. Beating Them to the Punch | Orange Husky Productions - May 8, 2012

    […] just so happens that the two sports-related rants that I went on (the too-long baseball season, and college players leaving school early) were touched on in some way in both ESPN the Magazine and Sports […]

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