College Basketball’s Free Agency: The Destruction of College Sports

College Basketball’s Free Agency: The Destruction of College Sports


Nick here, from the FanCave team 👋

March Madness is over, and our annual college sports hiatus has arrived. About 150 days until football begins… sigh

This scheduled lull in college athletics has already triggered typical offseason hysteria. While we wait for games to be played again, may as well debate the death of college sports, right?

That’s the kind of doom and gloom circulating these days. The transfer portal's wide open for another ~20 days (at time of writing), and interesting developments in the world of NCAA policy and NIL collectives have made things extra controversial.

It's got people complaining – you can basically negotiate with athletes freely? Offer them money to come play for your school? Horrible!

Here's the thing that's been bugging me: why all the fuss?

I mean, what's not to like about players being able to move around, getting paid, and using money as a reason to choose one school over another? When I pose these questions, I often get the same responses – "This isn't how college sports used to be," or "Kids should play for the love of the game, not for a paycheck."

We can all agree by now that athletes should be compensated in some form, right?

(The answer is unfortunately no, but I’ll disregard that opinion as… outdated)

In truth, there are legitimate arguments about the lack of structure in college sports, with folks comparing the current “unrestricted free agency” to professional leagues like the NFL or NBA. Those leagues have drafts, rules about who can sign whom, salary caps – all in the name of competitive balance for the product on the field (and more importantly, on your TV).

Thing is, college sports may be an entertainment product, but it’s built upon a foundation of an unrestricted draft process.

Kids can decide where they want to go to school.

There will always be competitive imbalance.

Unless the upper echelon of college athletics literally breaks away from associated university systems and institutes a professional draft process (which would be shocking, to say the least) college sports will always fundamentally be anti-competitive. It’s why there are so many divisions, conferences, and other denominations of program excellence to make the games as fair as they can possibly be.

Understanding this reality, the current college sports free agency is not nearly as destructive as made out to be. This is just more of the same, except players get paid.

Now, I'm not saying our current system is perfect. Far from it. But I do think it's a step up from where we were before. Remember when athletes weren't getting paid at all? Yeah, that wasn't great. And even when they could start making some money for the first time back in 2021, there were still plenty of weird restrictions.

But ever since that Tennessee injunction, things have been looking up. We're moving towards a model that's more akin to professional sports, where athletes can move around freely, get paid what they're worth, and know exactly what they're signing up for.

And you know what? I predict we'll start seeing fewer horror stories about NIL collectives reneging on offers or going bankrupt because they promised more than they could deliver. Transparency is key here. If collectives make their deals public and treat athletes fairly, we're on the right track.

So, to all the naysayers out there spreading doom and gloom about how this is ruining college sports – I think you're blowing things out of proportion. Of course, there's a big "if" attached to this – if collectives actually step up and do right by the athletes.

Let's keep it transparent, folks. Private collectives, take note.

Catch you later,