So, with regard to the idea of extending new market options to high schoolers looking to play ball someplace other than in the NCAA’s domain, here’s something to ponder (h/t Alex):
… A G League that attracts the best high schoolers and other top young players from around the world would command tens of millions of dollars in global media rights, says Daniel Cohen, a media rights consultant at Octagon sports agency. The G League has distribution deals with ESPN, Facebook, NBA TV, a startup network called Eleven Sports, and Twitch Interactive, an Amazon.com subsidiary that streams video games and esports competitions. Eleven, Cohen estimates, pays about $1 million a year. (Turner wouldn’t comment on the league’s finances.) “If I could tune in and watch LeBron James and Kobe Bryant go play their first year for a G League affiliate, it opens up a lot more interest,” he says. “You’ve extended the best league in the world to the two best leagues in the world.”
The NCAA, which charges more than $1 billion per year for broadcast rights to its March Madness men’s tournament, is proof of concept that the American appetite for basketball runs deep. And while much of the attraction of the college game is in its being, or at least pretending to be, for amateurs—kids playing their hearts out for a taste of athletic glory—some of the fun is in seeing tomorrow’s stars today. If the NBA gets it right, fans who once tuned in to watch James Harden play for the Arizona State Sun Devils will soon be watching the next James Harden play for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. [Emphasis added.]
As the article puts it, “The investment would be worth it for the NBA.” And there’s the catch — everyone agrees the NFL and NBA currently leave player development to the schools because it’s in their own selfish best interests to do so. If that approach changes, it’ll be for the same reason, not out of some beneficent gesture on their part to make Mark Emmert’s life easier.
This is your classic “be careful what you wish for” scenario. Does anyone honestly think that a significant talent drain from the schools will benefit them commercially? And before you go down the road of asserting that it will improve college ball, or that fans will be just as likely to tune in, be careful not to confuse your aesthetic preference for ESPN’s business model. Assuming that the NCAA and its schools wake up a few years down the road and find that their product isn’t worth as much, how do you think they’d respond?