Late yesterday news broke that the NCAA and the NBA are considering a new draft policy that would allow players to attend a pre-draft evaluation combine and still be able to return to school:
Under the proposal, which was a coordinated effort by the NCAA, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the NBA, underclassmen would be allowed to attend the Chicago pre-draft combine in May, get evaluated by team personnel and given a true reading on their draft status. The players would then be able to decide if they wanted to stay in the draft or return to school. They couldn't sign with an agent, though.
You mean 18-19 year old players will be able to try out for the league which allow them to make an informed decision on what is best for their future? What a novel idea. It's almost as if the NCAA is starting to come around to the notion that making the most important decision in a person's life should be accompanied by legitimate information and not by what an agent is telling kids.
Welcome to 2015, NCAA.
This is great for a league that only places five players on the court at a time but what about the NFL? How many third year sophomores or juniors have left a year or two too early only to find out they weren't quite ready for the big stage? Sadly, far too many. Guys like Jeoffery Pagan and Adrian Hubbard immediately come to mind as players who needed another season to mature as football players, which would have undoubtedly helped their draft stock. Think if Karrem Jackson returns in 2010 solidifying an inexperienced defensive backfield. Even with all the success over the past seven years imagine the type of teams Alabama could have fielded had some of our early entries returned for another season.
Of the 84 underclassmen who applied for the NFL Draft this year, only 60 were drafted. A year ago, a record 98 underclassmen declared — and 36 weren’t selected.
Coach Saban has gone on record multiple times stating that the NFL draft process is unfair to the younger players and the lure of the league ($$) is far too great to allow them to make informed decisions. The good news is that newly appointed SEC commish Greg Sankey and the NCAA are paying attention.
Though it is far from a done deal this is excellent news for players and athletic departments alike. The player is allowed to gather as much information as possible from scouts but can still return to school if they so choose, and schools can gain back a skilled player for another year.
For the NFL and NCAA timing of the underclassmen combine will be crucial, considering National Signing Day (NSD) is in early February just weeks after the Super Bowl. If this mini-combine takes place after NSD coaches will have to be more mathematical in how many players they sign, which could lead to either more over-signing or NFL factories like Alabama or an FSU signing less players to allow for underclassmen to rejoin the team.
But there's another side to this coin. Could this be a way around the push for pay-for-play? By allowing players to declare for the draft but still return to school, the narrative that the NCAA doesn't care about the players well-being is diminished somewhat. This places the decision squarely in the hands of the player in that you're at least giving them an opportunity to pursue their profession all the while allowing for the possibility it may not be in their best interest.
I, for one, would love to hear less about how mean the NCAA is to players and more about how young men are being given the opportunity to achieve a dream very few people can even fathom.