Don't like the one-and-done rule? Don't blame Mark Emmert. Seriously, don't. The much-maligned NCAA president has come under intense scrutiny for the organization's positions on amateurism, paying players, absurd rule violations and pretty much everything else, but when it comes to one-and-done, you'll have to take up the cause with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Emmert made this very clear when speaking at the Final Four:
"As everyone knows here, this is enshrined in the labor agreement between the NBA and the NBA players, and not a rule that we have control over."
It's an NBA rule that governs the minimum age for entrance to the NBA, not the maximum age for leaving college. The NCAA gets a pretty sweet deal out of it, too; the organization gets to keep extremely marketable players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker for a year, profit off their play and absolve themselves of any legal responsibility for the players having to go to college, since the NBA effectively mandates it. And while the universities are getting a good deal, they're not involved in the process.
This is how it should be.
But, after meeting last week, it appears that Silver and Emmert don't see it that way.
Silver says he and Emmert agree that NCAA must have "a seat at the table" in discussion of draft eligibility age.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) April 18, 2014
When you consider just the basketball side of the issue, this isn't such a bad idea. But when you consider the legal aspect — especially given all of the NCAA's lawsuits — this is an absolutely terrible idea.
Let's look at this from an outsider's perspective. What this essentially looks like is two businesses colluding to keep costs low while keeping profits and labor development high. Both sides have the motivation to work together. The NBA does not have a viable developmental league to lure in top talent, and the talks about improving the D-League are very preliminary. The NBA hasn't had a reason to improve the D-League, since the NCAA develops talent for it. The higher the age minimum, the longer the NCAA can serve as a farm system to develop talent.
By working with the NBA, the NCAA can also get even more out of its already-sweet deal. If the age minimum is raised to two or three years out of high school, the NCAA can brag about keeping kids in school to further their education while the organization gets to profit off their performance for even longer.
If this sounds too good to be true for both sides, that's because it is. Businesses aren't allowed to work together to keep labor prices low and profit high, and if this were brought to court, that's exactly what it would look like, as John Infante of The Bylaw Blog explained succinctly:
The NBA draft age limit is only in a marginally better legal position than NCAA amateurism. Silver has to know that.— John Infante (@John_Infante) April 18, 2014
The NCAA, especially, should know better. Right now, the organization is being challenged in court by powerful labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who claims that it has violated antitrust law by capping athletes' compensation at the value of a scholarship. Part of Kessler's suit alleges that since there is no viable minor league alternative for the revenue sports, the NCAA is able to profit off players for a year (in the case of one-and-dones) and not have to pay them.
The NCAA is already in hot water with that lawsuit, but it will make things astronomically worse for itself in court if it decides to formally work with the NBA to cap that value for longer, and thus profit off free labor for longer.
When you look at it solely from a basketball or financial sense, collusion with the NBA would provide the NCAA with an even better deal than its current one — a chance to keep talking about doing what's best for students while profiting off those students' abilities.
But legally, the NCAA's already fragile case would take arguably its biggest hit yet.