by Kent Sterling
The New Times published an article yesterday that reveals an investigation into the eligibility of NBA bound Eric Bledsoe. He was a poor high school student until he switched schools prior to his senior year, and three months rent was reportedly paid by the high school coach at Bledsoe’s new school.
For the entire article, click here.
Bledsoe will be a first round pick in next months NBA Draft. He is lightning fast, and is going to make a lot of money playing basketball because he had a successful freshman year at UK. Without finding a way to gain NCAA eligibility, Bledsoe would likely be a cautionary tale for kids taking school seriously. Instead, his future is secure.
So who do you blame for the kid’s issues. The high school coach who paid the rent to lure him into his district after the Mom told anyone who would listen the day before that Bledsoe was headed to California. That same high school coach told a college coach that the school who signed Bledsoe would need to reimburse him for the $400 monthly rent he paid for the the Bledsoes.
The mom, according to the NY Times article, worked as a custodian and in an adult book store. No shame in that. A parent does what she has to do. If that’s cleaning floors and selling porn to degenerates to put food on the table, that’s what you do. If a coach says, “I’ll take care of the rent,” you say thanks.
Does blame exist for Maurice Ford, the high school coach who paid three or four month’s rent for the Bledsoe’s, according to the landlord? No doubt he used Bledsoe for his talent and was rewarded with a trip to the state finals.
How about the often-accused, never convicted Kentucky coach John Calipari? Bledsoe’s transcript was in order and the NCAA Clearinghouse signed off on Bledsoe’s application. Ford demanded cash for the rent money he advanced to the Bledsoes, but that is easily handled without any overt complicity from Calipari or anyone else wearing a UK logo.
A kid gets to play in the NBA. A mom gets out of the custodial/adult retail publishing industry. A high school coach made it possible by reportedly pealing off some Benjamins to cover rent for a place in his district. A college coach brings a kid to Lexington, and for the privilege someone reportedly reimburses the high school coach for the cake he slipped the landlord. Now, the kid will get checks bigger than he has ever seen.
The percentage of NBA players who return to poverty within a couple of years after leaving the NBA is horrifying, so who knows whether Bledsoe will reap meaningful benefits from being the second best point guard in this draft after being the second best point guard on his Kentucky team. There is no doubt though that a kid who, according to the NY Times, lived in squalor in Birmingham.
Someone smarter than the people in charge at the high school associations, NCAA, and NBA needs to invest some serious brainpower in determining what’s best for the kids. On the list of priorities, the welfare of the kids doesn’t seem to be a priority for anyone. The New York Times found the information about Eric Bledsoe moving from a near lost cause because of academics to NBA first round draft pick so intriguing that they sent a reporter to Birmingham, Alabama, to unearth some dirt.
Honestly, who cares if kids bounce from high school to high school because of athletics? Who does that harm? No one wants a bidding war for high school athletes, but why is it my business or anyone else’s where a kid goes to high school?
In 2008, NCAA President Myles Brand made $1.72 million is salary and benefits. Meanwhile, the basketball players like Bledsoe who do the work get squadoosh other than a free education that is meaningless to many of them.
It’s time for basketball to create a place where kids 16-18 can go to make some money playing basketball. The NCAA does nothing for a kid like Bledsoe. There is no point for that kid to spend a year in high school breaking rules or benefitting from others who break the rules. Bledsoe, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Daniel Orton gained no NCAA approved benefit from spending nine months in Lexington.
The NCAA just signed an obscene $10.8-billion extension to its college basketball agreement with CBS. That agreement requires players to play for nothing. The answer isn’t paying the players to toil for the NCAA and their university. The answer is to allow the kids who need money more than an education to go do that. Let kids like the four freshmen at UK to go to the NBDL. Teach them about money. Try to end the cycle that leads to NBA players to incredible wealth and back to poverty. Lead them away from Bentleys and toward smart investments. Make the NBDL something more than a repository for basketball players dreaming of signing a ten-day NBA contract, and toward a product that will sell tickets and give kids some cash before being drafted into the NBA.
This system is weighted so heavily toward the rewarding of corruption that there is no other way to succeed. It’s time for grown-ups to put on their big boy pants and do what’s right for the kids so they don’t start their careers complicit in corruption. If Mark Emmert is going to justify his enormous salary as the new head of the NCAA, he needs to show up wearing his big boy pants and make meaningful changes to reset the system that fails kids on a daily basis.