- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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For two years, the NCAA has made -- or tried to make -- college basketball players make the most crucial decision about their professional futures almost comically early. The NCAA used to allow players until June to work out with teams, test the waters, and get feedback from the Undergraduate Advisory Committee until just weeks before the actual draft itself. Now the process is both harried and confusing, with one NCAA date (April 16 this year) whizzing by while most players (including a host of stars this season) merely wait until the only deadline that matters, the NBA's.
You probably already know why, but it's easy to forget: Because coaches, particularly those in the ACC, wanted it to be so. They wanted to know who would be on their team a day before the start of spring signing, so they submitted a proposal to that effect. It earned the NCAA membership's support. It passed. And now here we are.
Where is that, exactly? A place where we've sacrificed the ability of proven college players to take their time with their NBA decisions -- prevented them from withdrawing past April 16 -- for the sake of coaches' last-minute roster needs. A place where no one even pays attention to the NCAA's rule. A place where even coaches themselves seem confused about the rule's provenance and clamor for another change. That's what our own Andy Katz found when he discussed this issue with a bunch of coaches for his Daily Word on Thursday morning:
Of 21 coaches polled from around the country Wednesday, every one of them wanted one date for the NBA early-entry draft deadline instead of the two that are currently in place. The consensus was to simply do away with the arbitrary one-week-after-the-Final Four date the NCAA has had on the books since 2009 (that meant April 16 this year).
Katz found a litany of coaches to point out how pointless the early date is, including Thad Matta, who said he had "never been able to figure out" why two dates existed in the first place. Which is sort of frustrating because, you know, the coaches wanted the rule.
Anyway, thanks to Andy's always-excellent reporting, we seem to have a clear consensus that the early date is dumb, or at least that there should be one codified date and not two. I'd say I agree ... but if that date is still in April, I don't agree. Players can't work out with NBA teams whether the date is April 16 or April 28. The NBA has no problem allowing players to test the waters and then return to school; that's how things worked for a decade. Can we revisit this argument, please?
From Andy again:
At the time [of the rule's creation], Paul Hewitt (now at George Mason) was the coach at Georgia Tech, and his Yellow Jackets were losing players early to the draft at a high rate.
"The rule worked, but it wasn't perfect," Hewitt said. "One of the things that convinced us to vote for it was the deadline would be before the late-signing period began. It gave us a chance to add a player to the roster and in turn help the upperclassmen who are coming back and the coaches to have a stronger team and a better experience. That was the main reason a couple of coaches switched the vote, like myself. The rule did give some coaches clarity as to who was leaving and allow them to go and sign a player to add to the roster. The returning players and coaches deserved that opportunity."
As opposed to players in collegiate/professional limbo, who did not.
Why can't we just go back to the old system? If coaches and returning players deserve the opportunity to enjoy clarity, and signing other players, don't coaches have a responsibility to their players not to lock the door behind them when they dare to merely test the NBA waters?
Most coaches polled, though, said the one thing adopted in 2009 that probably can stay is the rule that if you officially declare for the draft, you cannot return to school.
Oh, right. I guess not.