One-and-done. Approval/disapproval for this plague on college hoops is all about age, the Lexington Herald-Leader opined last week.
No, it isn’t.
That young fans are drawn to ‘show me the money (now!),’ and framed opposite old timers, is no surprise. Most kids don’t have any. Fans in the middle with say, less hair, a few too many pounds and jingle in their jeans, are too conveniently ignored.
“Life is short enough already,” one said the other day. “I want to see a college kid be a kid, play college ball for his school, his team, the fans, while getting an education. That’s who I buy a ticket to watch play not one who’s gonna be gone in five months.”
Change. Of course college basketball has changed. Once a minor league for professional basketball, today college hoops is a partner alongside the NCAA and CBS. Trend setters Kentucky and more recently Duke are unabashed D-League franchises – big business, big marketing, big television, and big money for a few. In the mix both the aforementioned short-change fans by scheduling nobodies for games in their home arenas. This is change.
Somewhere amid the clink and clatter of mountains of money, someone – probably an ambulance chasing lawyer – said, “Hey wait a minute! These kids are nothing but plantation hands.”
Overall, I believe a fan’s age is less relevant than common sense that says one-and-done is greed, an erosion of values and ethics, a charade that enriches ball coaches and those who make them legitimate and media that glorifies all of it.
Good change is not complicated and somehow fans should demand it. To wit:
• High school graduate (and family) has civil rights. Choose free education with frills and benefits or choose a job in the NBA or in its legitimate developmental league.
• High school graduate and family who choose college, time as student-athlete, commits to three years. Money can wait.
• Fans (all ages) buy tickets to watch amateurs play a game they’re dedicated to and to the school they represent.
Benefit for fans? College ball coaches stop being wolves in sheep clothing, exploiting teenagers pretending to be dream catchers. Go get professional job!
So, change is inevitable, but can be good change if fans demand it.
Interesting, the emotional tracks around Kentucky this week.
Bowling Green on out: Joy, celebration for best team in Kentucky, Top 25 ranking and brag rights. Hilltoppers are 11-2 and CUSA king destined for Christmas week in south Florida. December 21, the Hilltoppers are favored to win the Miami Beach Bowl (ESPN).
Louisville on out: In spite of a sex scandal limbo and so-so 7-5 season, Cardinal Nation occupies a pinnacle of joy also. Governor’s Cup ownership fourth year in a row, and a bowl date five days after Christmas two hours down the road, Music City Bowl in Nashville. Texas A&M (8-4) is a good match (ESPN).
Lexington on out: Questions and more questions and grumbling growing louder.
What else can be done to make Kentucky football relevant? v The Mitch Barnhart business model to spend more money isn’t working. v Schedule. Invite Indiana back onto schedule, and/or Cincinnati and Memphis instead of Austin Peay and New Mexico State (2016 schedule). v Once-upon-a-time fan brainstorm to “put a dome over Commonwealth Stadium and stick a basketball floor in the middle,” doesn’t sound quite so ridiculous anymore.
Basketball ideas. v For sake of blue collar fan base in Big Blue Nation, start a new series with Indiana, and schedule one Top 20 opponent in Rupp Arena instead of plundering for profit in New Jersey, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. v UK officials stop lying about and inflating attendance figures. Did 21,894 fans pay to see Kentucky beat Illinois State November 30 or was the turnstile count of less than 16,000 accurate? v Hire Steve Alford before Indiana does.
Kentucky has moved on from an 87-77 loss at UCLA, but the game deserves a special circle on your calendar. December 3, the day the Wildcats were schooled and ideally began to grow up. v Clinical. UCLA was well prepared, but more, the Bruins stayed faithful to their plan for all but a handful of seconds. v When Kentucky’s coach mentioned being out-coached to media, he wasn’t being modest or gracious. he was being honest. In an early December game he and his team had been Schooled and went away with a video-to-teach-by. v Skal Labissiere was but one of several rookies exposed to “you ain’t ready for hoops at the DLeague level let alone The League.” v And, in a nationally televised show, Steve Alford turned up the heat under Tom Crean’s seat at Indiana.
Dedicated to Mark Stoops at Kentucky.
Clemson (13-0) coach Dabo Swinney: “I didn’t want to just catch lightning in a bottle. Seven years we’ve been grinding it, getting better. Every graduate, every recruit, every failure, every success, it all matters when you’re trying to get better and be the best. It’s been a challenge but it’s been fun.”
And so it goes.