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Thursday, January 4, 2007
College sports continued
To respond to Chris's post below, I'd agree that it would be great if there were leagues in all sports into which athletes could go straight from high school, without becoming essentially dead weight to an elite college they wouldn't otherwise see the inside of. (Sorry, truth hurts.) The point would be like conservatories for pre-professional musicians. Only they would form a league to provide the necessary competition. And they'd make a boatload on TV rights, since the best players would clearly end up there, all things being equal.
However, it's a little simplistic and not really accurate to say that baseball cleanly provides an alternative to college with its minor league system. Part of what's great about baseball is that the game is so darn hard that the minor leagues are needed in order to give players some way to improve after college. It may be that exceptional high school players get drafted, as they do with far greater frequency in basketball, but neither high schoolers nor college graduates make the leap -- with very few exceptions -- right to the baseball big leagues. The levels are too different. (Part of what's at work is not pure difficulty; it's that great hitters need testing against great pitchers, and vice versa. You can't develop the raw skills in some pansy college league, as some quarterbacks can, for example, particularly if they're sculpting their body into a machine on the side.) Ken Griffey, Jr. was 19 or so when he played his first day in The Show. No one in the Majors, though, is 17 or 18 and already a bona fide pro star, like the Bryants, Garnetts, LeBrons, etc.
No, it would have to be the colleges, rather than the pro leagues, who would get behind pre-pro leagues in basketball and football, for example. Schools have the interest in dividing sports and academics, at least in theory. To the NBA and NFL, though, college sports are just fine as a minor league system, since after all the undergrad stars can jump right into uniform at the big arena the following season.