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Fixing The NCAAs
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March 27, 2009, 06:00 PM
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Now that the NBA requires one year of college basketball (or European pro play) before it will draft young stars, the NCAA basketball tournament has become much like American Idol, with a different cast each year. This has its appealing side, but it`s also lacking in continuity. It`s not like the 1984 NCAA championship game, when super centers Patrick Ewing of Georgetown and Akeem Olajuwon of Houston, both of whom had lost heartbreaking final games in previous seasons, finally faced off.

This year, I haven`t been paying any attention all season so all I know about the participants is that there`s this giant homeschooled mulatto kid and his older brother on one of those schools in Oklahoma.

Personally, I would like to see college players stick around longer. For example, Kevin Love was an All-American as a freshman last year at UCLA because of his Bill Walton-like skills. His father Stan Love played for Portland in the NBA. (His father`s brother Mike Love is a Beach Boy.) He looked awesome through the first four rounds of the tournament, until he ran into Memphis`s NBA-quality athletes in the semifinal, where he looked short and slow.

So, he might not have personally carried UCLA to an NCAA championship, but what a team player to recruit around. If he had announced he was staying all four years, UCLA could have recruited star guards and forwards for a year or two of NCAA glory. And Love, with four years at UCLA and the hereditary Beach Boy connection, would have been a lifelong god in LA no matter what he did in the NBA.

Except, they don`t pay you to play college basketball.

So, he went pro, was drafted #5, and is guaranteed $5.4 million over his first two seasons. He`s playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 25 minutes per night, and, while he`s not doing much scoring or passing, he`s leading all rookies in rebounds per game with 9.0.

He and his dad are very sharp basketball minds, so they probably made the right decision

What top college players can do to make sure they get paid eventually is borrow money to buy disability insurance policies that pay off if they never sign a pro contract due to injury. A few dozen college basketball players do that each year. But few pay off because just about everybody who`s highly ranked enough to be eligible to get an insurance policy (insurance companies don`t want to write policies on players who just aren`t good enough to make enough money to pay back the loans) will sign some kind of pro contract. Insurance polices that guarantee you a certain amount of income are more expensive.

But why should players have to borrow their premiums? Let the teams` boosters pay. The NCAA could have a rule where each college gets to pay for income insurance for, say, one player per class (i.e., a maximum of four at a time). This would encourage more players to stay in college, where they really do get better coaching in fundamentals, provide continuity, but keep a few teams from stockpiling all the best players.