Jim Delany Suggests Athletes Should Have Opportunity to Skip College

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2013

With criticism of the NCAA pervading sports culture, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany says he has an answer that would help fix a lot of the issues that are plaguing college athletics.

Let the kids go pro.

As reported by ESPN on Wednesday, Delany asserted that college football and basketball should adopt Major League Baseball's model. Under MLB's collective bargaining agreement, players can choose to either sign a professional contract with the team that drafts them out of high school or reject the offer and attend college for at least three years.

The NBA currently makes players wait one year after graduating high school to enter the league. College football players have to be three years removed from high school. 

Delany suggests that adopting baseball's model could help college basketball and football avoid many of its current problems, particularly when it comes to compensation:

Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks. If they're not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness, and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say, "We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000." Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don't ask us what we've been doing.

In recent years, the NCAA's rules on amateurism have come under increased scorn. With billions of dollars being spent on television rights deals and schools raking in millions on merchandising, the NCAA's prevention of student-athletes from making money off their name has been seen as hypocritical to some.

Some former players have even asserted it's illegal. Led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, a large group of former and current college athletes filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., claiming each entity knowingly defrauded the players by using their likeness without compensation.

Georgia Tech's Vad Lee, sporting "APU" on his left wrist
Georgia Tech's Vad Lee, sporting "APU" on his left wristMike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Last week, multiple players throughout college football waged a protest against NCAA policy by inscribing their equipment with variations of the initials "APU," standing for All Players United. The National College Players Association, which organized the protest, is seeking awareness for the NCAA's ignorance on concussion issues, the O'Bannon case and many other alleged misdeeds from the organization.

Delany, who was among the many athletic directors and school officials at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the IA Athletic Directors Association meetings this week, sees his proposal as a way to find common ground.

I think we ought to work awful hard with the NFL and the NBA to create an opportunity for those folks. We have it in baseball, we have it in golf, works pretty good, we have it in golf, we have it in hockey. Why don't we have it in football, basketball? Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports?

The directors firmly rejected a pay-for-play scenario that some pundits have clamored for over the years. NCAA president Mark Emmert has long been a supporter of changing the governing body's bylaw, and last year he proposed a $2,000 stipend for student-athletes. 

The plan has since fizzled. Emmert will make another proposal on the issue to the Division I board of directors next month.


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