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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
One-and-dones have low academic requirements too

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

The NBA wanted at least a one-year buffer between high school and college.

The NCAA had no choice but to go along with it.

O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley
One-and-doners O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley starred on the court. But NCAA rules didn't even require them to go to class after the end of the first semester.

But, two years into the new draft rule that says a player must be 19 years old and at least one year out of high school, faculty academic representatives say they're frustrated with overseeing the student side of the one-and-done athlete. And, because USC freshman O.J. Mayo probably never would have set foot on a campus if the rule hadn't been in place, Sunday's "Outside the Lines" report that Mayo received money and gifts from a runner for an agent prior to and during his one year at USC adds more negative fallout to the one-and-done issue.

"It's very frustrating from an academician's point of view," said Ohio State faculty representative John Bruno, a psychology professor who has held his athletic department position for five years.

"We understand the opportunity that athletics brought some of these kids with respect to the opportunity to go to college when they may never have gone to college before," he said. "You embrace the fact that they're coming, but on the other hand you sort of shudder. You're frustrated because you know that there is a real good chance that this person isn't going to take full advantage of this opportunity."

Bruno and the Buckeyes have been burned four times in the first two years of the rule. Ohio State lost three freshmen -- Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook -- to the NBA last year and one this year when Kosta Koufos signed recently with an agent and won't return to school.

"Maybe it's almost better if they didn't enroll at all, but I would also agree that having a student in college for a term or two is better than not at all," Bruno said of one-and-dones.

Ohio State is in a tougher quandary than most schools because it is on the quarter system and its full academic term doesn't end until June. That makes it harder for freshmen who declare for the NBA draft to stay in school for the final quarter, something Oden didn't do last year. Students on a semester schedule -- the majority of players declaring -- now can declare for the NBA draft and finish the spring semester because the NBA no longer holds workouts for teams until after the Orlando pre-draft camp the last week of May.

One And Done?

Here are the 11 freshmen have entered their names in the NBA draft:

Jerryd Bayless, Arizona*
Michael Beasley, Kansas State*
Eric Gordon, Indiana*
Donte Greene, Syracuse
J.J. Hickson, NC State
DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
Kosta Koufos, Ohio State*
Kevin Love, UCLA
O.J. Mayo, USC*
Anthony Randolph, LSU*
Derrick Rose, Memphis*
*has signed with an agent

Who's in and who's out of the draft?

For a school to maintain its Academic Performance Rating (APR) -- which is focused on graduation rates and students who leave school in good standing -- it is critical for the schools that a player finish the full academic year.

But that doesn't solve the problem that some students are now going to campus for only one year, in some cases because they have no other place to go until they can declare for the NBA draft.

Of the 11 freshmen who declared for the NBA draft last month, Derrick Rose (Memphis), Michael Beasley (Kansas State), Koufos (Ohio State), Anthony Randolph (LSU), Eric Gordon (Indiana), Mayo (USC), DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M), Kevin Love (UCLA) and Jerryd Bayless (Arizona) all have made official announcements or are expected to announce soon that they will sign with an agent and stay in the draft. Syracuse's Donte Greene is likely to follow the same path, leaving NC State's J.J. Hickson as the lone freshman who could still return for his sophomore season.

"This is against the real academic success and integration and the academic life of a university," said Bruce Jaffee, Indiana's faculty representative for the past five years and a member of the business and economics department.

"I see why the NBA likes it, but the challenge is to find the one-and-dones like Eric Gordon, rather than someone who does the minimum in the fall semester and then kisses [academics] off."

Jaffee spoke highly of Gordon's one and only year on campus. Jaffee said Gordon lived on campus, was outgoing and involved with the general student body and was serious about his studies. "He also did reasonably well in both semesters, left eligible and took real courses," Jaffee said.

Jaffee said Gordon wanted the college experience but "candidly that's not the majority of kids. [The rule] probably generates a lot of one-year kids that don't want to be in college."

Don Morrison, UCLA's faculty rep for the past 14 years and a professor in the management school, said the NBA set up a "one-and-done rule that isn't good and is disruptive to the college program, coaches and recruiting."

But, according to Morrison, if the one-and-done is someone like Love, then it may turn out fine.

We're just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the percentage of guys going early. We've got young men with one foot in and one foot out.

--Ohio State rep John Bruno

Morrison called Love unusual and said that he fully embraced being a student. "He left an impression that if he knew he wouldn't get injured and drop in his draft status that he would have stayed for a second year."

"One year is better than zero, but if someone comes in and blows off everything then it doesn't work," Morrison said.

Freshmen need to be eligible only from one semester to the next, and they can pass just six hours in the fall semester (in most cases, just two classes) and still be eligible. A freshman could skip classes entirely in the spring semester and declare for the NBA draft when the season ends.

Mike Holen, Kansas State's faculty rep for the past 10 years and the dean of the school's College of Education, said the Wildcats were fortunate that their one-and-done was Beasley. Holen said that it's crucial that the school recruits a player who is responsible academically and takes it seriously. He said most 18- and 19-year-olds don't take school seriously.

"I've encouraged our coaches that if they recruit kids with a low probability of being here for the long haul, then be real careful what type of kid," Holen said.

But Holen said he's not naive, either.

"We're not foolish about this," he said. "We know a young man like Michael probably won't be here for two or three years. But we don't want a kid to embarrass the institution and the athletic program."

Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose's spectacular career at Memphis ended after one season.

Still, Holen said if an NBA-ready player has to spend a year waiting for the draft, "I can't imagine a better place than a university campus."

And as Arizona's Jory Hancock, who is in his third year as faculty rep in addition to being the director of the school of dance, points out, the one-and-done phenomenon is unlikely to end anytime soon. He understands that coaches are going to recruit the best possible talent, regardless of the potential academic problems of a one-and-done.

"We're trying to get the students and the coaches a message to graduate somehow -- before you leave, come back and get a degree, sometime," he said. "We understand the temptation to the NBA. It's always there. But we're trying not to let that be something that alters the way they think about school. That's all we can do. It's hard to tell someone to turn it down.

"The rules allow this. And as long as the rules allow this, there isn't a whole lot any academic institution can do to alter it."

Most faculty reps contacted for this story would like to see basketball adopt either the baseball or football model. Baseball players can be drafted out of high school, but if they go to college they have to go for three years. The NFL doesn't allow players to declare for the draft until after their junior season.

The NBA may look to push the age limit to 20 but would still have to get it through the NBA Players Association at the next collective bargaining agreement, and that could be a reach since a number of the players in the union benefited from early entry to the league.

Outside of the NCAA's changing its rules and not allowing a player to test the draft process (if you're in, you're in), there isn't a lot the schools can do with the current rule. Arizona's Hancock has an idea for added incentive, though, to keep players thinking seriously about school after Jan. 1. His idea is to tie financial aid to eligibility and dole out the scholarship money monthly. If a player isn't going to class, he wouldn't get his scholarship money.

"You could at least create some incentive, and that way you're punishing the offender, not the entire team," Hancock said.

Bruno, though, sees a foreboding trend until this rule changes.

"We're just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the percentage of guys going early," said Bruno of the 69 American college players who declared early for the draft last month. "We've got young men with one foot in and one foot out."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.