Last year, the ACC's coaches came up with a novel idea. They wanted the NCAA to mandate a new early-entry NBA draft deadline with a set date of May 8. The NBA's draft declaration deadline is June 15, and that was the date most players previously used to decide whether or not they wanted to stay in the NBA draft or come back to school for another season. Why the change? Coaches were concerned that players were taking too long to decide whether or not to come back, making it difficult for coaches to know whether or not they needed to recruit another player before the spring signing period expired. The result -- so the story was told -- would be fewer players declaring for the NBA draft and less confusion over scholarships and recruits. Win-win, right?
After some deliberation, the ACC coaches got their way. The NCAA instituted the rule for the 2010 offseason. And, uh, yeah. Not so much.
The number of underclassmen declaring for the draft hasn't fallen. Quite the opposite -- as of the April 26 declaration deadline, 80 players are on the draft list this year. That's six more than last year and 10 more than in 2008. Clearly, this rule hasn't prevented underclassmen from chasing their dreams, however unrealistic those dreams may be.
What the rule has done, however, is force players that declare for the draft but don't hire an agent to make their decisions on returning to school within a microscopic window. Those players have from now until May 8 -- barely more than a week -- to attend workouts, get information from teams, and feel their way around their professional basketball futures. This process used to take months. That's probably how long such a process should take. Instead, that summer's worth of tryouts and knowledge has to be crammed into 10 days.
The result here is obvious: Players won't get good information. They won't be able to make informed decisions. Rather than truly test the NBA seas, underclassmen barely get to dip a toe. That might be OK if the rule genuinely discouraged prospects with unrealistic chances out of the draft, but it obviously doesn't. Instead, it punishes players who actually do have a realistic shot at NBA riches -- say, JaJuan Johnson -- but who might be inclined to return to college if their draft status isn't as favorable as it would be in subsequent years. And why? So coaches can land that hot new recruit without worrying about tying up a scholarship.
In other words, the rule helps coaches at the expense of players. Which is nothing new in NCAA land. But that doesn't make it OK.