Don’t make athletes decide on turning pro

When I was in college, I called my school’s basketball games for the campus radio station.

I had hoped to be a sportscaster someday, but it didn’t work out. However, I didn’t have to drop out of school, only able to return to my college radio station under certain circumstances, to see if anyone would hire me.

If anyone from a professional radio station heard me on the radio — which would have required them to pretty much be on campus — and was interested, they would have had to offer me a job that I had a choice to accept or reject.

This is the same option every other college kid has if someone wants to hire him or her. Yet college football and basketball players don’t have that option. They have to declare for the draft with no idea if a professional team will want them, where they may end up playing and how much they might make, and once a football player declares, he’s done. (At least basketball players can test the waters if they don’t hire an agent.)

Sam Vecenie writes for Vice Sports that we should stop “draft-shaming” players like L.J. Peak of Georgetown who declare for the draft, even though there are far more players in the draft than there are spots, because we don’t know everyone’s circumstances. (In Peak’s case, he thinks he’s ready for the NBA, has a young son and wants to start making money.)

But Peak shouldn’t face the choice of giving up the opportunity to keep playing college basketball if he hires an agent on the chance that someone will want to pay him. Instead, as soon as he was eligible (let’s use the current year-out-of-high-school rule), NBA teams should have been able to draft him or overseas teams should have been allowed to pursue him, and Peak would have had the opportunity to say yes and turn pro or no and stay at Georgetown.

Just like me, the former college radio play-by-play man.

The only reason to force players to make that decision (and even players who don’t hire agents have to decide if they’re staying in the draft or not) is so front-office types and college coaches can have certainty — certainty for the pro teams that they’re not wasting a draft pick, certainty for the college program that they know who will be on the team months ahead of time.

Notice who doesn’t benefit from that arrangement? Players like L.J. Peak.

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