Billy D: Keep status quo on freshman eligibility


Commissioners throughout four of the five power conferences have tossed around the idea of making freshman ineligible to counter the recent wave of one-and-done players in college basketball.

But don’t count Florida coach Billy Donovan among those in favor of freshman ineligibility.

“I don’t like it,” Donovan said. “I don’t. I think the game has changed, players have changed, talent level has changed. I think the reason why you have to allow freshmen to play is because you’re allowing players to leave college early. The days of guys staying four years in college maybe that made some sense where somebody could get acclimated now, but I think because college basketball is somewhat relatively young. Teams that are really good are really loaded with a lot of really young talented players.”

Donovan is not alone. SEC commissioner Mike Slive, whose tenure ends July 31, is the lone power five conference commissioner to voice his opinion against making freshman ineligible.

Donovan has witnessed both ends of the spectrum in recent seasons. In 2011-12, one-and-done freshman guard Bradley Beal helped lead Florida to the Elite Eight before being taken third overall in the first round by the Washington Wizards in the NBA Draft. In 2013-14, led by four senior starters, Florida reached the Final Four for the fifth time in school history before falling 63-53 to eventual national champion Connecticut.

Led by four sophomore starters, Florida won its first national men’s basketball title in school history in 2005-06. Three of those four sophomores — Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah — could have left for the NBA draft, but returned as juniors to lead the Gators to a second straight national title in 2007.

“College basketball, in a lot of respects, at our level, at the BCS level, there are a lot of young players making tremendous impacts,” Donovan said. “I think it would be a disservice to a lot of these kids, in my opinion, to not allow them to play.”

Donovan has said in the past he prefers a model similar to college baseball, where players can enter the NBA draft out of high school, but if they choose to play in college, if they have to stay in school for at least three years. The NBA’s current age minimum for draft eligibility is 19. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he would like to raise the age to 20, but that would have to be collectively bargained with the league’s players association, and the next collective bargaining agreement won’t be reached until 2017.

“I’ve always been a big believer that they should be allowed to go out of high school if that makes a lot of sense to them and that’s what they want to do,” Donovan said. “But I don’t think that they should be ruled ineligible to play. I think some of that is maybe along the lines of the whole one-and-done thing, and trying to eliminate some of that stuff. And I don’t know if that’s really fair because there’s a lot of kids, I mean look at Kentucky’s team right now with (Trey) Lyles, and (Tyler) Ullis and (Devin) Booker and (Karl-Anthony) Towns. Those guys should be playing. Those guys shouldn’t not be playing in college. Brad Beal shouldn’t play in college his freshman year? I just don’t necessarily agree with that.”

Other notes:

— As part of NCAA sanctions levied against Syracuse on Friday for lack of institutional control, Syracuse’s 72-68 win over Florida at the Carrier Dome on Dec. 2, 2011 was vacated. The NCAA vacated all Syracuse wins from 2004-05, 05-06, 06-07, 10-11 and 11-12. You can read more about the sanctions here.

— Former Gator point guard Scottie Wilbekin, playing professionally in Australia,  has led the Cairns Taipans to the finals of the NBL league. But Wilbekin’s team fell in a 1-0 hole in the best-of-three series with an 86-71 loss to the New Zealand Breakers. Wilbekin had 16 points on 4 of 14 shooting in the loss. I’m told that when the season ends, Wilbekin, last season’s SEC player of the year, will return to the U.S. and try to latch on with a team in the NBDL.