By Anjelica Blige
Ryan Field at Northwestern University. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Athletes are taught to strive for greatness, to be the best at what they do. If an athlete plays well in their high school years, they might be scouted and play at a collegiate level. Then, they may have a chance to become a professional athlete. This is a long journey and not suitable in all situations, but of course it does happen.
College athletics have long been a powerhouse in the sports world. Many cities and regions don’t have a professional sports team, so college sports are king. Top schools in “powerhouse conferences” like the Pac-12 and SEC have contracts with TV stations to air football and basketball games.
Additionally, the “stars” of these sports make all the rounds on ESPN and SportsCenter‘s “Top 10 Plays”. They become the faces of their respective universities and are portrayed as if they’re all the next Tom Brady or LeBron James. They get to the limelight through hard work, which includes hours in the gym and on the practice fields.
Each university has their own set of guidelines aside from athletics that each person must attain before becoming fully eligible to attend that university. BTR’s resident sports DJ, Kory French points to Notre Dame and Stanford as examples of holding their athletes to high academic and physical standards.
If and when the time is appropriate, these college athletes will enter their respective drafts. During drafting, they are scouted by professional teams, who will judge the athletes on whether they are a fit.
In college basketball there is a concept called the one-and-done rule where an athlete can play on his college team for only one year. Then, if he sees his talent is up to par, he can enter the draft. This causes a constant push and pull in college sports to see if trying to enter the draft so early is worthwhile.
“Some of these athletes do not strive for greatness as much as they see this as a ‘job’ or a ‘career,'” French says. Prior to the one-and-done rule, athletes that felt they didn’t need to play college ball could be drafted out of high school.
This makes the idea of being a draft-able player tricky.
After putting in many years of hard work, their futures are then in the hands of general managers and organized staff members of professional franchises. These scouts make subjective decisions based on their team’s performance in the previous season. However, since the professional teams with the lowest performance record in a season get the first draft picks, it cultivates a mentality that contradicts the “strive for greatness” attitude.
Unfortunately, this can lead to tanking. “Tanking,” or purposely losing games, is something some teams might do in the hopes of bettering their changes as receiving high draft slots and, ultimately, top draft picks. In recent years, the NBA has been under the spotlight because of franchises that have tanked or are currently tanking. Most notably, The Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers are accused of this. However, even when the teams are purposefully performing poorly, they still want their players to be–or at least portray themselves as–great.
When asked whether or not he thinks top-drafted players should have to play for a team that has just tanked, French says yes, because it maintains the balance of a sports league.
“I don’t only think it is fair, I think it is necessary, and one of the great consistencies of professional sports. The way the draft pick is set up so that the bottom teams select first allows for no one team to dominate forever,” French explains. “There are of course trades, salary caps, collective bargaining agreements that factor into how teams select draft picks, but any young player being drafted into the professional level should look at becoming a ‘franchise’ player as an opportunity to turn a team around from a ‘tanking’ team to a dynasty.”
The NFL Draft starts in April and continues through May, while the NBA Draft is in June. As the months and days approach we will see which teams tank and which players become the most talked about possible new additions of those teams.