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Mark Cuban wants elite basketball prospects in the D-League, not college

Mar 2, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

Mark Cuban

The NCAA treats top-level basketball players terribly. A cartel system keeps their compensation artificially low and binds them to needlessly restrictive rules.

But there’s no great alternative.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants to change that. Cuban, via Tim MacMahon of

“I think what will end up happening — and this is my opinion, not that of the league — is if the colleges don’t change from the one-and-done, we’ll go after the one,” Cuban said. “The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he’s not going to class [and] he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League.”

“We can get rid of all the hypocrisy and improve the education,” Cuban said. “If the whole plan is just to go to college for one year maybe or just the first semester, that’s not a student-athlete. That’s ridiculous.

“You don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to pretend. A major college has to pretend that they’re treating them like a student-athlete, and it’s a big lie and we all know it’s a big lie. At least at most schools, not all. … But we can put more of an emphasis on their education. We can plan it out, have tutors. We can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn’t allow schools to do that would really put the individual first.”

“We’d have to make it so where there’d be very strict policies and rules so that, even if you’re not going to go to [college] class, there’s going be life [skills] classes — how do you deal with the world? — and you have to attend those. You have to keep up with those. We’d have very strict [rules] on why you’d be suspended if you didn’t live up to them. Things that should be done to student-athletes in college and are just not. Or not always.”

I don’t understand why Cuban is calling for college to “change from the one-and done.” One-and-done is an NBA rule.

Forced by the pro league to spend one year after high school elsewhere, players go to college for a season. The college are then stuck integrating those players.

If the NBA allowed players to jump straight from high school, colleges would either let them go or improve conditions to attract them. Instead, the NBA gives the NCAA a near-monopoly for 18-year-old American basketball players.

I like the idea of the D-League competing with the NCAA for players, ideally improving conditions for the players in the process. But there are two major obstacles to Cuban’s plan – player salary and coach salary.

The D-League maximum salary is under $30,000. If Cuban is offering comparable educational opportunities to NCAA schools, that $30,000 would be on top of what colleges offer above the table.

However, as we all know, sometimes college players get paid under the table, too. Chris Webber received, depending whom you believe, between $38,200 and $280,000 from a booster – and that was more than 20 years ago. The rate has surely gone up.

There are advantages to payments being made in the open, but the D-League must come close to college’s secret payments – no matter how much they are – to really turn the tide.

That’s because the best American coaches outside the NBA reside in the NCAA.

John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and many others have long track records of preparing players for the NBA. With their huge profits, college programs can afford to keep those coaches.

D-League coaches make an average of $75,000 per year, according to Sam Amick of USA Today. The lowest-paid Division I coach in USA Today’s database makes $115,000 – and that’s Roman Banks of Southern in the SWAC. Elite basketball prospects aren’t going to Southern, and they won’t go to the D-League if that minor league can’t attract coaches who can help them.

Cuban is on the right track. His proposal just doesn’t go far enough.

For the D-League to get top prospects, it must pay players more and not fall into the NCAA’s mistake of compensating players with classes they don’t necessarily value. If players want higher education, they can spend their salary on it – just like you, me and Cuban.

Whoever starts treating top basketball prospects like real employees, whether it’s the NCAA or D-League or another entity, will win this battle.

  1. detectivejimmymcnulty - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    I like the MLB system. A player can be drafted out of high school but choose not to sign and go to college, but since he was drafted he has to stay 2-3 years. Teams get a compensation pick if a player doesn’t sign.

    • kinggw - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:28 PM

      I like the MLB system as well, but the NBA is not setup to operate the way MLB does. The MLB has an expansive minor league system. And that system does a good job of weeding out the real talent from the hype. The D league needs to be a true minor league with every team having their own affiliate for Cuban’s vision to come to fruition.

  2. pete5000 - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    I like the MLB system too. What the NBA should maybe trial is an Under-20 or Under-21 league.
    So all the NBA teams field a youth side. Is there a minimum wage, i’d assume so, how much is up to the NBA. But it could be done cheaply, maybe $50-$80000 per player, full-time. Then when you 20, you nominate for the NBA draft.
    Benefits are endless. You get full-time proffesionalism, under NBA rules, not NCAA rules. You can still study part time(on campus), or by distance education/flexible online degrees. The modern World’s changing, you don’t need to go to campus to get a degree. But you live like a pro-athlete, and get paid straight out of High School. Many soccer leagues have youth comps all around the World. And some basketball comps in Europe, and other sport do. The MLS soccer might have a youth comp now.
    So there is a clear pathway and platform NBA (Tier 1) D-League (Tier 2) NBA Under-20/ or 21 (Tier 3). Simple. And the NCAA remains amatuer, and if they want to make there own basketball rules let them. FIBA and NBA have different rules too. But the NCAA remains amateur.

  3. erckle31 - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    This is basically in a way how youth development in European football has worked since forever. There is this false perception in America that having a college education is important for every profession.

    • muhangis - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:08 AM

      For these college NBA prospects, their education is on the floor of the court, not in the classroom.

      I don’t see at all anything wrong with it: it’s basically a year of required training in your field (basketball – in college) before he enters his real world profession, NBA basketball.

      There is no significant harm to the player at the end of the day. It benefits the player, and it benefits the teams.

      1) Teams do not have enough of an idea what they are getting from an unproven player only with h.s. experience. That 1 year in college is EXTREMELY VALUABLE in gaining more to determine what skill/talent you are drafting in a player.
      – ex., Wiggins would have undeservedly been the #1 pick, instead of presumably J. Parker.

      2) The quality of play in the league benefits. The rookie NBA class is much better in quality w/ a year of college under their belt, than players out of high school.
      – ex., remember Kobe’s rookie year? remember Garnett’s rookie year? Jermaine O’Neal? McGrady’s first year? They were very meek in numbers.
      – Atleast for a top draft pick out of his college freshman year, his play has a greater impact to help his team win.
      – Which helps to improve quality overall in the league.

      3) The quality of the college game, which many of us watch and are a fan of, is lowered! For obvious reason I hope I don’t have to waste time explaining.

      4) Ppl need to stop pretending as if this is somehow hurting or damaging the young player in any real fashion.
      – That 1 year in college is not hurting him in any degree. In fact, it is 1 year of helping him to mature. I’m not one to believe that the education they learn is completely valueless for all of them.
      – If he’s really as good as billed, in the long run he is still going to make the MILLIONS $$$ which he will make. Hypothetically, if a player out of h.s. gets drafted in the top 5, where otherwise his 1 or 2 years in college would have exposed him completely out of the lottery. A TRAVESTY for a team helped avoided because they had more knowledge of the player.
      – It’s not a rare thing – there are plenty of players who are told they are NBA ready out of h.s., they perform in college for that 1 year (as forced), and then they themself decide “I want to stay for another year.” For reasons they decide for their own benefit.

      My conclusion: the current system is a win situation for all. [I don’t buy the b.s. argument over a talented yet extremely poor 18 yr old kid needing the cash right away for his family – they still have to go through the proper training steps, and rare are those in such deep poverty that they cannot wait one year – there is no entitlement, regardless.


      I pose this question to Mr. Cuban: Would you hire an unproven kid straight out of high school to be a key employee for one of your fortune 500 businesses? Or do you, Mr. Cuban, make him go through the proper training, education, & degree certification to earn the job?

      Just like you, the NBA wants to know the product that they are getting. IT’S PART OF THE PROCESS…. “IT’S LIFE!”….. DEAL WITH IT!

      I almost guarantee that you that Cuban has never hired a kid fresh out of h.s. w/o any college experience as a key player for one of his own companies…. so don’t be hypocritical!

      • muhangis - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:10 AM

        p.s. and I thought being an NBA player while earning multimillion bucks was supposed to be a tough job position to get…. silly me!

  4. Eric Chase. - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Let the NBA draft the wiggins and randles out of high school with the caveat that they are mandated to the D league for a year. NBATV televises those games. Each team has an affiliate and a minor league is created except with greater prospects.

  5. antistratfordian - Mar 2, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    You shouldn’t go to college at all unless you are prepared to make an effort to earn a degree. Otherwise you’re just wasting someone else’s spot.

    • eugenesaxe1 - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      Thank you.

  6. yousuxxors - Mar 2, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    either copy baseball and make a minor league system or go NFL and make the NCAA your farm (which is how it is now)

  7. jhb64 - Mar 2, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    The Knicks are a d team

  8. rajbais - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    The scholarship-only proponents are just a bunch of jerks that want to keep college kids and their families to be poor.

    It’s okay if their moms don’t work at least two jobs.

    Let the kids help out their families and not be set up for failure. Most of these kids couldn’t get into their colleges based on their academic merits and there is academic fraud to keep kids eligible.

    How’s the kid getting better?

    The only way for the D-League to be popular is if shoe companies give kids endorsements and incentives to be in the D-League and then advanced.

    • pete5000 - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:45 PM

      They will give endorsements if the playing talent, is there.

  9. campcouch - Mar 2, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    The NBA’s one and done rule is nonsense. Those kids don’t get anything academically or athletically from one year visiting a school. They’re free to set their workplace policies,but you might as well draft an 18 year old,indoctrinate him on his new found wealth and let him play in the D-league. The freaks like Lebron James are few,and the players coming in now after a year of “amateur” status still take 2-3 years to pay dividends. The NCAA should ask a player they recruit if he plans on staying for 3-4 years. If he says one,put him in home ec and financial management and save the tuition costs. If he says 3-4 but backs out after one,make him pay back that years tuition.

  10. mrtreyseven - Mar 2, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    its amazing how no one ever thinks about injury or having a plan b smh getting into the league will Just workout for every high school basketball player who thinks they are the next great NBA star, thats pretty much every kid who invested in their craft. Going to college isnt about holding u back its setting u up for afterwards it amazes me how these guys go broke because those are the same guys who needed the money for their families now what career gone money gone atleast if u even started down a degree path and left for the league you are still ahead of the game…then you want look like the 50 guy asking 19 year olds kids how to do math in college. What if the league doesnt work for a kid its 450 rosters spots in the NBA what if you can make one until u are maybe 29 all the while u trying to make it you couldve atleast had a degree to give u more bank than D-League….Maybe im stupid but if you played a sport and loved it so much you want to make it a career atleast college will give u something to offset you not making a team or little money you may make in D-League

    • pete5000 - Mar 2, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      Modern University, you can study online and still get a degree. You don’t need to be on campus, full-time. You can study part time, or by online distance education correspondence, flexible delivery call it what you want. Mark Cuban even said that. we can pay for there education and do so much more, as we have more options. He covered all that stuff.

    • dinofrank60 - Mar 2, 2014 at 9:19 PM

      What happens if a kid is good enough to go to the NBA, but wants to go to college for three years? He will be criticized terribly , the pressure on him would be unimaginable. Whatever Tim Duncan went through would be tripled, at least.

    • retxedfred - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      You know what else kids learn in college? Proper punctuation!

  11. dinofrank60 - Mar 2, 2014 at 9:14 PM

    Project for Mark Cuban: Turn the D-League into a useful minor league.

  12. adoombray - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    Cuban is right on the money here. Why on earth does the NBA feel so wedded to the NCAA? the NCAA needs NBA prospects SO MUCH more than the prospect or the NBA needs the NCAA. March Madness is the NCAA’s bread and butter and they should be paying their players for the obscene amounts of cash that gets generated. It’s the most revenue of all their sports and it’s not even close. If there’s one sport where it makes sense to completely bypass college, it’s the NBA.

  13. 00maltliquor - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:03 AM

    Parents everywhere just cringed. lol

  14. muhangis - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:37 AM

    Ppl let’s get real. It’s ONE year of college they’re required to go….. not one year of TORTURE, but merely one year of college to attend!!! ….boy the travesty

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