Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Should We Treat Future Lottery Picks?

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog for a buddy's site called "One and  Done 101" about Kentucky's national championship and what it meant for the "one and done" culture of college basketball. As FranT pointed out last week, Kentucky ain't repeating, but their roster still contains guys that may or may not split for the NBA Draft in June, and the issue remains. I should note that this little proposition of mine is only applicable if the eligibility rules stay the same; whether or not a kid should be able to make the jump from high school, or if a kid should have to do multiple years in college, is another discussion altogether. As conference tournaments get in full swing and March Madness looms large, what better time to revisit this idea. So here's my idea, The One and Done Degree.

April 13,2012
Everyone is talking about the ramifications of John Calipari's dream team of underclassmen winning the National Championship last Monday. The game as we know it has changed, the "19 years old and one year removed from high school" rule is useless, say goodbye to great team basketball; you've heard it all. College hoops has basically done a 180 since the days when Kareem/Lew and Bill Walton weren't allowed to play on varsity as freshmen: instead of being forced to sit out because of their age, freshmen today are forced to be in school and on the team and a select few of them just won the national championship.

The general sentiment seems to be reluctant and unenthusiastic acceptance. Like "yeah, there's technically nothing wrong with these one and dones, but we miss the old way". I, however, think we need to fully embrace this new shift head on, and it needs to come from all directions. Not just fans embracing an emerging paradigm of a team, but universities making the most of the limited credits they are offering and knowledge that they are imparting on these athletes. That's why I created a solution.

The One and Done Degree!

Well it's not quite that. But it would be a major that these kids, like Anthony Davis, would be highly encouraged to major in coming into their freshman year. It would teach them valuable and practical skills and information for any professional athlete. Let's call it "American Media and Business Studies". It would probably run out of the Sociology department because Sociology departments literally offer courses like "People in Society." Courses or areas of concentration would include:

Public Speaking - learn how to speak in front of reporters and cameras for interviews and press conferences. Learn what to say, and just as importantly, what not to.

Marketing Strategy, Media Relations, & Public Perception - Learn how to treat the media and how the media can portray you in a negative or positive light. Main case study would be studying the disaster that was The Decision.  

Social Media & Branding 101 Seemingly every athlete has a Twitter and/or Facebook. Doesn't mean every athlete does it well. More importantly, study personal branding and all the reasons why Jordan became Jordan, Fila never became the next Nike behind Grant Hill, and look at Shaq's abysmal Dunkman sneakers. Athletes are always trying to expand beyond their trade, and good for them, but perhaps their attempts wouldn't be quite so misguided with a little background education.

Personal Finance We skip over accounting, statistics, and anything else important and teach you how to hire an accountant, lawyer, and agent properly who will help you turn mountains of money into even more mountains to avoid ending up like Scottie Pippen or Mike Tyson.

Sex Education Scare some sense into these guys before they enter a whole new level of temptation and the dangers that come with it. Textbook to avoid: Wilt Chamberlain's Autobiography.

These 5 topics can easily be taken over the course of one school year even with a long and time-consuming season, and the athletes will have a very top level understanding of the world of pro athletes and how to not get swallowed up by the sharks. Even if they don't end up as successful pro athletes, are these skills still not worthwhile? You can still build a more thorough program off of this foundation.You are aware they currently offer Hotel Management degrees at a lot of colleges right? 

Detractors might include some professors or deans that are required to teach these topics. To them I would say this: you are giving out credits to your university, and these young men will be representing your university for the rest of their lives, whether you like it or not. Is it not more worthwhile to make the most of those credits and prepare them for their career, instead of them snoozing through Geology 101 because it was a "common requirement"? With a program like this, they would be so much more likely to understand the relevancy and therefore make their one or two years count. Other detractors might be the people saying these kids never even go to class for their one year. To them, I would say that that gets policed at the university level, some things you can't control, but at least this program is a start. 

If there's anything that the current state of big time athletics (pro or college) can teach us, it's that there are countless ways to screw up. Why not take what little time you have with these kids and teach them some skills necessary to succeed for their projected profession? Clearly these student-athletes are not ordinary students or ordinary athletes. We give them extra special attention as athletes, so why do we continue to teach them ordinary courses as students? For as long as the "one year rule" exists and maybe even beyond (Carmelo Anthony was a one and done before the rule), these tremendous athletes will be stopping in briefly to the university classrooms. Why not give them something that might help them in the career to which they are aspiring. Isn't that at least part of what college is all about?

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