Fran Fraschilla, ESPN’s international basketball expert, spoke with Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated about international youth development in basketball, specifically about how the European youth system ties in (or doesn’t) to the NCAA:
Often times, a pro in Croatia is making $500 to $1,000 a month, which I would jokingly say is less than some guys who play at major-college level. [Laughing] Well, I guess you have to quote me on that since I just said it. But in point of fact, you hear the term “pro” in Europe and think of a guy making a lot of money, that’s not the case, but it does jeopardize their amateur status if they want to come to the States and play. Now having said that, you are going to find from time to time kids from European countries will be playing here in the States, and often times there’s great benefit to that above the club system.
Glockner then suggests expanding opportunities for foreign prospects to come over to Division I, especially if they have earned in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Those dollars figures are similar to domestic extra benefit cases that have resulted in student-athletes being suspended, but not ruled permanently ineligible. And as Franschilla notes, $500-$1000 per month is not exactly a living wage or that much profit.
The history of NCAA rules in this area is one of slow but steady deregulation. Just a few years, playing on a team with one professional player for a season would have resulted in such a long suspension that a prospect would have few Division I options. And there is precedent for setting a simple dollar figure; tennis prospects can now make $10,000 in prize money per year before the NCAA asks questions.
I think the biggest obstacle to Glockner’s proposal, which Franschilla seemed to support, would be the exclusion of American players. In the current climate (read: O’Bannon), an new rule which says you can make some money in Europe but not in America just because we have existing amateur systems is a tough sell.
But you could write a rule that says prospects in any country may receive up to some amount (say $10,000 per year) while playing on the youth or academy squad of a senior professional club. That does not discriminate by nationality, but does exclude things like funneling shoe money or agent payoffs through an AAU team. American players would not have an opportunity to make this money unless or until the NBA or other professional basketball organization started helping out with youth development.
It would very deftly knock the ball about fixing AAU back to the NBA. The NCAA would be open to bringing some of the under-the-table payments into the sunlight, so long as the NBA did the work to organize it. That would put everyone on the same page when it comes to pre-enrollment amateurism, which can only be a good thing for American players, foreign prospects, and the NCAA as well.