Every year I find myself playing slow sad songs after college basketball wraps up its season.
Iím not saddened that the season is over or of the prospect of a long offseason. What has me filled with doom and gloom is the changing landscape of college basketball.
The four year college basketball athlete is an endangered species.
There was a time when declaring for the National Basketball Associationís draft was a bridge that most college athletes wanted to postpone. Entire teams stayed in school to not only win a championship, but to come back and defend it and potentially repeat as champions.
I miss those days.
All five starters of this yearís national championship University of Kentucky team declared for the NBA draft and I donít blame them one bit.
Things could not be more different today. College basketballís student athletes no longer stay in college to compete, hone skills and finish a degree before entering the NBA. College basketball has become a springboard for elite players to showcase talent and make a mad dash for the NBA.
The days of elite players like Tim Duncan staying in school to finish their college years are over. I have to say that while I loved Duncanís commitment to stay in school in 1996, I would have respected him if he had gone to the pros early too. Duncan, like a lot of college basketball players, had enough talent to make it in the pros.
While I agree that college does give opportunities to those who choose to go, it is not for everyone.
I hear the same argument every year that players are taking unfair advantage of the scholarships that colleges award them.
Well that might be true if colleges didnít profit from having these marquee athletes come and compete. Athletes get the chance to play against collegiate talent on a world stage to showcase their talents. Colleges, on the other hand, are making out like bandits.
Colleges donít seek out, vigorously recruit and offer elite athleteís scholarships out of the kindness of their hearts. They more than recoup what they lose in scholarship funds by jersey sales, recognition and money for post-season participation.
You know what I donít hear? I donít hear any whining when college baseball players make the jump from college to the pros or minor league.
Where is all the indignation about the college athlete giving up his chance at a free education? Does it only matter when itís college basketball players and theyíre ruining the game we love?
Colleges and players mutually benefit from the relationship.
I admit, I miss the days of college athletes staying in school, but If Iím being honest, elite basketball players have a right to go out and make a living just the same as anyone else.
If ESPN called me after my freshmen year and Chris Berman, NFL analyst, said we want you to join the Sunday morning crew, I would have jumped at the opportunity.
As fans, we can want kids to stay in school and get their educations all we want, but the truth of it is that college isnít for everyone and the window to play professional sports is a lot more narrow than the one to go back and finish a college degree.
College basketball is going to have to adapt to the changing landscape or just ask Kentuckyís John Calipari, head coach. I think he may have a pointer or two to share.