NCAA President and former LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert admits that he’s seen some “stupid” NCAA regulations in his day, like the rules that used to limit how many meals schools could provide to their student-athletes.
But Emmert said Ben Simmons’ anger with the NCAA over having to play one year of college basketball at LSU before going on to the NBA is a misplaced emotion.
“I was reading today where someone who played basketball at LSU was very unhappy with the one-and-done rule,” said Emmert, speaking Wednesday at LSU’s inaugural Sports Communication Summit at the Manship School of Mass Communication. “That’s not our rule. That’s the NBA’s rule. But (he says) it’s another stupid NCAA rule.”
Emmert said he agrees with Simmons, who was quoted in a documentary about him airing Friday on Showtime saying he felt he wasted his time in college because he didn’t have any time to work toward a degree, to a point.
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“The one-and-done rule is something I’ve made no secret about how much I dislike it,” Emmert said. “It makes a farce of going to school. But if you just want to play in the NBA, you can do that. You can go to Europe or play at a prep school until you’re 19.
“I’d love nothing more than for the NBA to get rid of that rule. We’ve made it really clear to the (NBA) players union and the leadership of the NBA that we very much would like it changed.”
Simmons, a native of Australia, once said in an interview that he chose to play one year of college basketball because it gave him a greater opportunity to improve than staying at home and developing his game there.
The story surrounding Simmons’ attitude toward his college experience helped to illustrate Emmert’s presentation about trying to improve how the NCAA’s message is communicated.
“In a tweet people say, ‘The NCAA screwed up again,’ with no notion of what those four letters mean and who stands behind them,” Emmert said. “Imagine how different it would read if it said, ‘The universities of America screwed up again.’ ”
Emmert said athletes have to make a conscious choice to be student-athletes, rejecting as the NCAA has for it’s entire existence that student-athletes should be “employees” of the university.
“If someone wants to be a pro basketball player and doesn’t want to go to college, don’t go to college,” he said. “We don’t put a gun to your head. First and foremost, it’s about being a student at a university. We’re in the human development business.
“If I wanted to hire someone to play football, why would I hire a 17-year-old (out of high school)?” Emmert asked. “Why wouldn’t I hire someone who just finished playing in the NFL or the CFL? If you want to hire a team, hire a team.
“Those kids have to be students. Philosophically, they have to be representatives of the university, so what we can and should be doing, which what we are doing today, is provide them with everything they possibly need to make them successful students and athletes.”
Emmert, who left immediately after the summit for the NCAA’s home site in Indianapolis, said he was unable to stay for Saturday’s LSU-Alabama showdown. But the man who hired Alabama coach Nick Saban at LSU said he’s got a rooting interest.
“I can’t take sides, but I sure hope someone in purple and gold wins Saturday,” Emmert said.