Mark Cuban made headlines by eviscerating the quality of college hoops, calling it, “Horrible, ridiculous, worse than high school.” He sliced open the officiating, saying, “The referees couldn’t manage a White Castle. There are so many things that are ridiculous.” He crushed the NCAA’s ability to create NBA-ready prospects, suggesting, “If they want to keep kids in school and keep them from being pro players, they’re doing it the exact right way… kids don’t know how to play a full game of basketball.”
Cuban is a pot-stirrer. He’s unconventional, challenges the establishment, and speaks his mind. I appreciate all of that. Too many owners collect their hundreds of millions, watch the zeros get added to their bank accounts, and just swim with the current. Cuban is also correct in his criticism. NCAA basketball has turned into a slow-down, grind-out, 40 minute muck. But he’s also the wrong voice for this screed.
First, the NCAA is not contracted to be the NBA’s official developmental system. It obviously has evolved that way like a vine wrapping around a trellace, but they’re not official business partners. The NBA doesn’t pay for upgrades to outdated campus facilities, or provide student-athletes with medical care. When Murray State point guard Cameron Payne gets drafted, the closest experience he’s had to the NBA is “League Pass.”
If Cuban wants to shout in a boardroom to the other 29 owners about how the D-League officiating is shoddy, or the prospects coming through that pipeline aren’t ready, he has every right. The NBA is paying for that system. But the TV networks don’t spend nearly $1 billion on an annual tournament featuring the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Maine Red Claws. Fans don’t get lathered up over their teams grabbing the D-League MVP (Othyus Jeffers won it in ’14). Unless the NBA wants to start cutting checks to the NCAA, Mark needs to chill. I don’t see NBA owners offering to pay Coach Cal’s salary so that public funds at a state institution don’t have to, or upgrade Northern Iowa’s weight room so the athletic department can spend more on swimming.
On top of that, if Cuban is so bothered by the undeveloped talent entering the draft, here’s an idea: increase the age limit. Concede what you need to in that age-old fight with the player’s association and push one-and-done’s to more-and-done’s. The NFL has mandated an athlete must be three years removed from high school graduation to be eligible for the draft. Mark, why not fight for that same baseline in the NBA? Imagine Karl Anthony-Towns and Jahlil Okafor had two more seasons to bang bodies? Think Tyus Jones and Cliff Alexander would be better prepared for the league with another four semesters in college? And if they didn’t want to ply their trade for free for three years, they could take the Brandon Jennings/Emmanuel Mudiay route. Go play overseas and get paid, then enter the draft. And Cuban can go rail on the Turkish and Chinese leagues for their developmental shortcomings. Yeah, I’m sure the officiating is great when the Guangdong Southern Tigers battle the Zhejiang Golden Bulls.
I’m actually glad Cuban and Geno Auriemma have spoken up. Even if they both sound hypocritical, the college game begs for improvement. It needs to be shaken up from its current form because unfortunately too many people are benefitting from it. Virginia held opponents under 40 points this season a staggering SIX times. UVA beat Rutgers 45-26 a few months ago, which doesn’t set basketball back 100 years, it morphs it into soccer for kindergarteners. But Virginia’s Tony Bennett won 30 games with that Pack-Line Defense, was a top-10 team all season, and nabbed a two-seed in the tourney. He’s got job security. His AD is happy. His fans aren’t going to turn their backs on a winner just because the style is ugly. And even if fewer people watch on TV, the NCAA still splits up $11 billion over 14-years paid to them by the networks to broadcast March Madness. What’s the motivation in changing anything?
The college game will change, because we finally have prominent, influential voices ripping it. But it’s worth noting the wallets attached to these voices. Hey Mark, I don’t mind you pining for change. But are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.