College basketball and the NCAA are talking about stopping the practice of coaches offering scholarships to 8th graders. NCAA prez Myles Brand depicts this practice as "untoward." The problems are many: Most 14-year old boys can't make up their mind which way to part their hair, let alone what college to attend. Like a lot of things in college athletics, the elders have the upper hand. The scholarship offer is contingent on many one-sided factors, including the fulfillment of ridiculously high expectations, the coach still being the coach, qualifying academically and no embarrassing character flaws.
Reggie Minton, National Association of Basketball Coaches associate executive director (and one of the really good guys in all of sports) makes the case to the Lexington Herald-Leader against this practice:
“Do [these 14-year olds] have enough knowledge to make such a decision? Two or three years from now, when it's time to enter (college), are they the same prospect and same person you thought they were four years earlier?"
The next step for the NABC? According to Reggie, “We'll probably ask our coaches to refrain from it. If that doesn't cut the mustard, we'll go to the next step: (NCAA) legislation.” Ordinarily I have a gag reflex at the thought of more NCAA rules so let's hope that coaches can self regulate.
And to the broader topic frequently discussed on the Money Players blog: What's more wrong: a college coach who sells an 8th grade phenom-on-training-wheels a college scholarship or a sports agent who sells a career in the NBA? The simple answer is that both are selling powerful hoop dreams. And in defense of sports agents, it's far easier to predict an NBA career (or not) of an 18, 19- year old than a college career of a 14-year old.
I'll close with a line from the movie Shaft: "We all on the hustle. I sell broads and dope and numbers. You sell crap and blue sky. It's all the same game." And you know these runners, recruiters and agents don't want to get out-hustled.