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Following another profitable and exciting NCAA basketball tournament, the annual question was raised yet again: What can the NCAA do to stop student-athletes from leaving school after only one year? Unfortunately, the answer is not much from a legal perspective.
The NCAA, however, could provide for greater opportunities for student-athletes that would entice them to stay in school. One example would be to allow student-athletes, especially the elite student-athletes, to take advantage of their names and likenesses while enrolled in school. This would give student-athletes the opportunity to be compensated based on their athletic achievements and use of their names and likenesses. For example, a local automobile dealer could pay a student-athlete to sign autographs at a corporate event. This would give the student-athlete the opportunity to have extra money in his pocket while remaining in school.
Outside of changes to NCAA legislation that may provide more perks and marketing opportunities, the NCAA cannot alter the landscape and, thus, cannot prohibit a student-athlete from leaving school after a successful freshman year. Such a practice would violate antitrust laws for which the NCAA would likely have no defense. The NBA and the NBPA, on the other hand, have authority to enter into collective bargaining agreements that restrict player movement and conditions for employment. In this case, it is a condition of employment that a student-athlete is nineteen years old and one year removed from high school prior to becoming a professional basketball player. In accordance with the nonstatutory labor exemption, an agreement between the employee and the employer to restrict entrance into the NBA is permissible (i.e., Clarett v. NFL).
Additionally, the NCAA is not permitted to enter into the bargaining relationship between the NBA and NBPA. As was evident during the NCAA tournament, the NBA and the NCAA do not see eye-to-eye on this issue in light of David Stern and Mark Emmert’s verbal sparring about the one and done rule. In sum, unless the NBA and NBPA change the one and done rule through collective bargaining, it does not appear changes will be made anytime soon.