Speaking Frank-ly; Time to dismantle college basketball as we know it

Frank Sumrall, Contributor Editor

After North Carolina head coach Roy Williams made the final cut that separated the basketball net from the rim-an event synonymous with college athletic glory-a thunderous applause broke out. The Tar Heels won their seventh national collegiate basketball title. But the uphill battle for athletes is far from over as they still have to hustle to their Monday 8 a.m.’s.

Student athletes face an abusive schedule balancing sports with a shoddy education system that wants the amateurs to pass instead of to learn. Masked by a billion-dollar factory of free labor, this is not the environment for amateur athletes. After a 10-year hiatus, the NBA has made it a requirement for at least one year of college play before the ability to enter the draft. Now that hiatus needs to come back, permanently.

College athletics’ focus is no longer on the students. The NCAA rewards schools for playoff performances, making athletics a priority. Education takes a backseat and is only a focus for athletes when their grades fall below NCAA requirements. University of North Carolina, the newly crowned champions, was found guilty of 18 years of academic fraud with paper classes and tutors taking tests for players. While the school helps kids cheat, the kids help the school make money with their terrific play.

It’s a corrupt yet incomplete cycle as the circulation of money stops with the school, never touching an athlete’s hand. This debate rages on and always hits a boiling point during every tournament run. But with the NCAA not budging on any exceptions, it’s time for Plan B; the removal of college requirement before declaring for the NBA draft.

The one-and-done rule benefits both college and professional leagues commercially. Collegiate sports have never been more popular as more than nine billion dollars were spent on March Madness brackets in 2016. The NBA loves their future stars getting national television time before ever stepping foot onto a professional hardwood floor because it makes them more marketable.

But the college experience for athletes is hell. Superstars play in fear hoping they won’t suffer a career ending injury while they stomach a balancing act of academics and athletics. And a lot of athletes grow up in poverty and want to cash in for their families as soon as possible.

There will always be NBA busts and it is not fair to blame inexperience and lack of college as a reason. Critics of the high school era blamed the failures of Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry on lacking experience before the NBA. But exceptional Hall of Fame players came out of the high school era like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. With the expansion of D-league teams for rookies to practice before their professional debut, college is becoming less ideal.

Basketball athletes can choose to go to college and tune their craft, but making it mandatory is only supporting the corrupt cycle. If the requirement is eliminated, March Madness will still thrive with amateur basketball players who want to be there while ending the one-and-done industry so many universities have become.

It is best  to support athletes who go into the NBA, whether to their D-league affiliate or straight to the glamour that is the National Basketball Association.