If High Schoolers in the Minor Leagues is the Answer, Why Did the CBA Fail?

March 12th, 2018 | by Jonathan Yates
If High Schoolers in the Minor Leagues is the Answer, Why Did the CBA Fail?
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CBA

It would be difficult to think of a worse career move for a high school basketball player who could earn a college scholarship to go into the minor leagues instead, as many are advocating.
There is certainly no lack of opportunity as in the state of Maryland alone, there are eleven professional basketball teams.
Between this huge amount of minor league basketball teams and the small percentage of players who make it into the NBA, the best move for the player is obviously to receive a college education.  The Continental Basketball Association, or CBA, touted itself as “the world’s oldest basketball league.”  It had a working agreement to develop players and referees for the National Basketball Association, about as secure as it gets for a minor league.  This did not keep it from filing for bankruptcy in 2001 and going “out of business” in 2010.
When is the last time a major college basketball program declared bankruptcy and went “out of business”?
That in itself should be more than enough to keep players in school and out of the minor leagues in basketball.  For all rational debate, it merely serves as a start.  You can never go wrong talking about dollars when the value of a college education is the topic.  Articles in Forbes put its worth at more than $2 million in higher future earnings, with a yearly value well into the six figures when in school.  This comes from lavish spending on teaching, counseling, coaching, wellness, insurance, traveling, et al…all for the gain of the players!
The D-League, by contrast, pays two paltry salaries, $19,500.00 or $26,000.00.
Not really a tough choice there, but as with anything in life taxes come into play!  Guess what: college athletes do not have to pay taxes.  Professional players, including those in the minors, do!  The disparity grows even larger as the salaries are reduced by Uncle Sam, in addition to state and local governments!
Here is where it explodes!
Those salaries of $19,500.00 and $26,000.00 are gross income, before taxes.  The benefits of a college scholarship such as tuition, room, and board are paid by non-athletes with net income, or after taxes.  So to pay for that $150,000.00 benefit package of a college scholarship would require the net income of more than ten minor league basketball players!
The soft dollar benefits of a college scholarship, those other than tuition, room, or board, create a black hole that sucks any discussion favoring minor leagues into it, collapsing on their own sheer mass of folly.
Here is the most obvious soft dollar benefit here: when is the last time you heard of a minor league basketball player or playoffs?  Are offices across America getting pools ready for the championship tournament for a minor league basketball league anywhere in the world like the “bracketology” of “March Madness”?  What fan can’t name the members of their favorite college team?  That is from the millions in branding that the schools create to benefit the program, and thus the players.  Locally, this happens for the Maryland Terrapins, and every other major sports program at colleges across America.  Terp fans can name the recruits coming in along with the greats of the past, in addition to the current roster.
Can anyone name one player ever for the CBA Rockville Victors, a minor league team about 25 miles away from the campus of the University of Maryland?
Most important of all, a college prepares a student-athlete with innumerable opportunities as opposed to one for minor league basketball (and that almost never happens).  The connections made in college will be far more rewarding than those made in minor league sports.  An accounting degree takes one straight into a lucrative career in the financial services industry.  Those who play and graduate from college have much better chances of becoming coaches and working in sports administration.  A college degree is also needed for entry to professional schools, such as medicine and business.  One can “read for the law” in America in four states and then take the bar exam to practice as an attorney.  But far less than one percent select that option annually, choosing instead to go to law school to be educated to work as an attorney in the legal profession.
That should serve as an example for those thinking of playing basketball in the minor leagues rather than taking a college scholarship for hoops.
Culturally, players are better off in college.  Everyone on a college team is playing to win while those in the minors want to make it to the big leagues, which is a huge difference.  In the book, “Boys Among Men”, about high school players going straight to the NBA, many talked off how lonely they were in the pros.  The same is true for the minors only the benefits, compensation, and future is much, much worse than in the NBA.
Anything playing in the minors can do, college ball does more and better for a student-athlete.
There is more and better coaching, healthcare, travel, meals et al…  Fours years in the minors accomplishes nothing.  Four years in college earns a degree proven to have millions in greater earning power than those without.  In college, student-athletes are exposed to more and better-educated people on a daily basis, resulting in career contacts and a business network that does not come from minor league sports.  There are many who embrace the college environment, which has yet to be heard about the minor leagues (Watch the Crash Davis “I’ve been to the show” soliloquy in “Bull Durham” about his short stint in the major leagues.)  That is why more and more baseball and hockey players are taking college scholarships to advance to “the show” as the benefits are far more rewarding for student-athletes.
As for making it to the NBA, the chances are too low to even consider that a viable option in any equation for the masses.
There are millions of families around the world spending billions so their children can earn a scholarship to play basketball and other sports for an American institution of higher learning.  Why would anyone want to discard that opportunity to make $19,500.00 a year?  This makes no sense when talking about higher education, and even less when talking about the dollars earned as a professional with a college degree!

Jonathan Yates About Jonathan Yates
Jonathan Yates spent much of his career working for Members of Congress in a variety of press and legislative posts. Positions he has held working for Members of Congress and state legislators include Chief of Staff, General Counsel, Legislative Director, Press Secretary, and Legislative Assistant. His journalistic work has appeared in such periodicals as The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Investor's Business Daily, and TheStreet, among others. He has degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown University Law Center; and has also matriculated at the U.S. Naval War College and The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Jonathan also hosts The Culture of Sports You can follow Jonathan Yates on Twitter at @politicsports13

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