One and Done: The Game vs. The Student Athlete

Summer television is fairly boring, but this summer ESPN is re-airing its most current iteration of its 30 for 30 series. I grew up in a religious household, so sports was about all I could watch growing up without risking the wrath of Jesus.

This past Saturday “One and Not Done,” told the story of John Calipari, the beleaguered college basketball coach who seems to leave chaos and revoked titles in his wake. “One and done” refers to players who leave college after one year to enter the NBA draft. Students go to college because the league requires that the student’s high school graduating class be out of school at least one year before they are eligible to be drafted.

What struck me most, however, wasn’t Calipari’s story of intentionally recruiting players who want to leave after a year. It was the segment where other elite coaches made their arguments as to why college basketball players should stay in school and play rather than jump to the NBA after one year. Syracuse’s Coach Calhoun went so far as to state that the kid’s should stay for the sake of the game.

My jaw dropped. For decades the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has emphasized that it wants its athletes to be students first. Nevermind that the term “student athlete” was created so that the NCAA wouldn’t have to pay a kid who was injured while playing for a college. Yet, here is a premier coach focusing on the game, and not the student part.

Furthermore, it’s only in revenue generating sports that we seem to care about the student part or the game. Baseball players often do not go to college at all, and get drafted right into the minor leagues. Tennis players and golfers turn pro as early as they are able. At some point we are going to have to come clean and talk about how “the game” doesn’t really accommodate the student part of athlete and either fix it, or get over being salty about a student leaving college and pursue financial security.

If I knew at age 19 that I was good enough to go right into a career that would leave me without student loans then I think I would have been “one and done” also.

3 thoughts on “One and Done: The Game vs. The Student Athlete”

  1. Good article Shonda! I saw the 30 for 30 myself and it bugs me. These young players are seen and treated as commodities, making billion dollars and revenue for these institutions who will penalize them for making money off of their own name. So, you can put my name on a jersey and put my likeness in a video game and profit, but I can’t?

    I also don’t like how they try to shame players and strip them of their dignity. So, Derek Rose’s playoff/Final Four year doesn’t count after all that hard work. I swear they just go around digging for things. It’s disheartening.

    1. Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit opened up the door for contracts to be amended and students to not give away their likenesses in perpetuity. Football players are also suing for brain damage compensation. Schools can’t say they don’t have it when coaches are taking money and also endorsement deals. A new day is slowly coming.

  2. Nice article. I fully agree with you. Athletes should not be forced to go to school at all especially if they have the talent.

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