NCAA’s Mark Emmert: HS hoops players should have option to pro

The NCAA president says he's in favor of HS players having options, but universities don't want to make athletes their employees.

NCAA president Mark Emmert's de facto state-of-college-hoops media availability Thursday in San Antonio carried divergent messages that universities want things to stay essentially the same while the head of the NCAA acknowledges that change could and should be coming.

Emmert, speaking as part of events leading up to the Final Four, said he expects change to come to college basketball, as soon as after this season, except at its very foundation.

Set against a background of the FBI’s corruption probe into college basketball recruiting and Thursday's news that McDonald's All American Darius Bazley will jump directly from high school to the NBA's G League, Emmert defended not paying student-athletes while offering his opinion that turning pro out of high school should be an option.

At the heart of his thoughts, the NCAA president said he doesn’t believe the sport would be cleaned up if players received a cut of the billions of dollars they help bring in each year:

“Universities and colleges have consistently said they don't want to have student-athletes become employees of a university. They don't want them to be playing for compensation. They want this to be part of a collegiate experience, and they want these young men and young women to be part of a higher education environment. …

"People fully understand that when you go into a collegiate environment you're not doing that to become an employee of a university. And there is, as we said earlier, no interest in higher education of turning college athletes into employees that are hired and fired by universities.”

During the course of his remarks, however, Emmert pivoted to the idea that the NCAA plans to talk to the NBA and its players union about a construct under which players should be eligible to turn pro immediately out of high school:

Emmert said a player then could choose how important it is to make money immediately.

“I personally think that there needs to be the ability for a young person and his family to say, you know, what I really want to do is just become a professional ballplayer, and they ought to be provided that opportunity if they don’t want to go to college. If they do want to go to college, I think that’s an extraordinary opportunity. …

“If young people have options and they can choose, do I want to be a professional athlete and play this game for money, or do I want to play this game as part of a higher educational experience … and then maybe play professionally afterwards or maybe not, then they need to make that decision. That's a choice that needs to be there.”

Emmert responded to the recruiting scandal by naming former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to head the Commission on College Basketball, which is to offer its recommendations on potential change on April 25.