Ben Simmons Is The Poster Child Of A Broken System


Over the weekend the story developed that Ben Simmons, arguably the best player in college basketball and future number 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft is not eligible for the Wooden Award (Best College Basketball Player) and the only criteria that he doesn’t qualify for: GPA.

Before I get into anything, let me first say this: I get it, playing DI anything is a borderline full-time job, and it can be tough to keep up with academics.  As a former college baseball player I can confirm that first hand.

Here’s what the NCAA website says about academics in Division 1 to remain eligible to play:

In Division I, student-athletes must complete 40 percent of the coursework required for a degree by the end of their second year. They must complete 60 percent by the end of their third year and 80 percent by the end of their fourth year. Student-athletes are allowed five years to graduate while receiving athletically related financial aid. All Division I student-athletes must earn at least six credit hours each term to be eligible for the following term and must meet minimum grade-point average requirements that are related to an institution’s own GPA standards for graduation.

Basically what this means is that students are only required to take six credit hours and for those of you who don’t know what that equates to, that’s two classes per semester.


Let’s let that sink in while we discuss the GPA standards. Now each institution can set their own standards to be eligible, however, most of these guys are on scholarship and therefore need to maintain NCAA-set standards to  keep that scholarship. I mean that’s only fair, they are paying for your education, you should at least try to get one.

Here’s what they say about the GPA standards:

Student-athletes must achieve 90 percent of the institution’s minimum overall grade-point average necessary to graduate (for example, 1.8) by the beginning of year two, 95 percent of the minimum GPA (1.9) by year three and 100 percent (2.0) by year four.

For most colleges, to stay eligible to play, you usually need to maintain somewhere between a 1.7 and 2.0 GPA. How about we put these numbers in context:


What this shows is that to be eligible to play NCAA DI basketball, you need to take 2 classes per semester and do no worse than a C/C- in those two classes. AKA roughly a 75%.


To be eligible to win the Wooden Award, an honor he probably would have run away with, Ben Simmons needed to get a C in the two classes he is taking and he couldn’t even do that. 

Here lies the problem.

The NCAA and NBA have their hearts in the right place making kids go to college (or Europe) for a year after high school graduation before being draft eligible. But the bottom line is that for most of these kids that are one and done is that year of college is doing nothing for them.  They aren’t even getting one year’s worth of an education while they are there, so what is the point?

Why are we wasting anyone’s time thinking that sending these boys to college is a productive exercise if we know they don’t care about any of the rules since they are leaving after the year is over?

If we are going to have these rules, let’s do it right. Here’s what needs to happen:

If an athlete wants to go pro right after high school, let him. If he is mature enough to make that decision, then he is mature enough to play in the NBA.


If the athlete wants to play in college, then he should be required to complete his degree and graduate before he declares for his respective draft.


Getting a college degree needs to be emphasized.  Becoming a professional athlete is rare, it’s even more rare to have a sustained career. Too many people go to play in the pros, don’t have a long career then cannot find themselves a job once they retire or get cut. Why? Because they don’t have an education or job skills needed to make it in the real world.

A new system could help that.

If getting a diploma becomes the emphasis then we are setting the athletes up for success for their entire lives. It doesn’t matter if the degree takes 2 or 5 years.  It is so vital for their lives.

Ben Simmons and his current situation are perfect examples of why the current system has been created with good intentions but with flaws. This should start the conversation.  Why are we sending kids to college if they don’t want to be there and won’t even take part in the student aspect of the “Student-Athlete” title.


One thought on “Ben Simmons Is The Poster Child Of A Broken System

  1. There is one small thing you are missing here…
    “Student-athletes” who take 2 classes per semester are people who aren’t there for more than one year. That rule applies, yes, but think about the other rule that coincides with it… “No sports related financial aid after five years.”
    These kids aren’t taking two classes per semester for five years and then finishing their college careers on their own dime after that. Less than two percent of these kids actually go pro anyway. In other words, a large percentage of these kids are actually taking the required credits to graduate in five or less years. A VERY small percentage take only two, or three classes a semester.
    And we shouldn’t even go into coaches exploiting students for their talents by getting them accepting into colleges they have absolutely no business attending, and then cutting them for poor grades…


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