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The Randolph Morris Loophole - Problem or Paranoid Fantasy?

I have been wanting to write about this for quite some time now, but events have conspired to make it impossible.  I finally have the opportunity, so here we go.

There have been a couple of fairly high-profile columns about the Randolph Morris "loophole" - that is, NCAA bylaw, which reads as follows:

An enrolled student-athlete in basketball may enter a professional league's draft one time during his or her collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league and the student-athlete declares his or her intention to resume intercollegiate participation within 30 days after the draft. The student-athlete's declaration of intent shall be in writing to the institution's director of athletics.

So now that we know what we are talking about, let's examine what the talking heads are saying.

First, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress gives us this article, which begins "Following the firing of Kentucky Head Coach Tubby Smith ..."  Obviously, factual errors are never a good way to begin a credible column, but let's ignore that and consider the substance of what he wrote.  Givony seems to conclude the following after some rather disjointed discussion:

A.  The "Morris Loophole" allows college players to effectively evade the rookie salary scale.

B.  Late-blooming players would be able to use this loophole to place themselves in a position to negotiate not only a bigger payday, but effectively choose the team they play for.  Deron Williams is used as an example.

C.  It's a dangerous enticement for college players, who might try what Morris tried, and get drafted in the second round, effectively forcing them into the NBA low-prospect meat-grider.

D.  College-age kids are too stupid to have this option at their disposal.

E.  This loophole could dilute the current NBA scheme of allowing the draft to enrich poor teams with talent, allowing the rich to get richer.

F.  Only the NCAA can fix the loophole.

Bob McClellan, College Basketball Editor of, also has a fairly recent article on the "Morris loophole".  He focuses on only one part of the argument which is "B." above.  The only really different thing is, he uses Joakim Noah as his example rather than Deron Williams.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I think the arguments of both these men are full of imperious crap.

First of all, let's look at the reality.  How many players in today's draft could have taken advantage of the "Morris loophole"?  Well, let's look at's mock draft board and see ...

Found one - Georgetown's Jeff Green.  He is currently projected as a top ten pick, and was unranked out of high school, but wait!  His first year at Georgetown, he averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds and shot 40% from the 3-point line besides being 6'8"/230#.  Sounds like second-round material to me.

Well, there's Joakim Noah, who has already been mentioned, so that's one.

How about Nick Young of USC?  3-star out of high school.  He averaged 11 points, 4 rebounds and shot 40% from three his freshman year at USC.  Possible he would have missed the second round that year.

That's really about all.  Once you get past about the 25th pick, it is a crap shoot as to whether or not you're going to be in the first or second round.

Now, I have no idea if this draft is actually representative, on average, of how similar prospects will shake out, but I'm going to assume it is close.  So we are talking about a maximum of probably 2 to 5 players per year in the entire NCAA who could potentially benefit from taking a gamble on Morris' route.

And a gamble it is, too.  Who knows what an NBA scout will see?  We often see strange people show up in the second round who nobody really considered, and "sure-fire" second-rounders go by the boards.  My point is, there is so much uncertainly and the consequences are so traumatic, I doubt anyone will deliberately attempt what Morris accidentally accomplished.

So who really loses if a great player, say like a Dwayne Wade who was a fairly safe bet to have been able to go Morris's path, actually accomplished it?  Well, the big loser according to Givony would be the NBA teams in the front of the draft, which is weighted to benefit the poor performers.  But those teams would still have the opportunity to purchase the hypothetical Wade's services on the open market, so that objection is silly.

The real losers in this scenario are journeyman NCAA players - you know, those guys who tend to go from team to team every couple of years their whole career.  Those are the guys most likely to wind up back on the unintentional free agent market due to an influx of talent from outside the draft.

Finally, let's look at who could close this loophole, should enough people conclude it is a problem.  Sure, the NCAA could, by simply mandating that once you go through a draft, you lose your amateur status.

But in an ironic twist, the people that could best render it moot are none other than the NBA Players Association itself.  Their collective bargaining agreement currently reads as follows, in relevant part:

Section 1. Player Eligibility.
(a) No player may sign a Contract or play in the NBA unless he has been eligible for selection in at least one (1) NBA Draft. No player shall be eligible for selection in more than two (2) NBA Drafts.

All they would have to do is change that rule so that any undrafted players are simply returned to the draft pool.  That could be done by changing the wording very slightly to something like this:

Section 1. Player Eligibility.
(a) No player may sign a Contract or play in the NBA unless he has been eligible for selection in at least one (1) NBA Draft. Any player not selected in the first two rounds of the initial draft for which he is eligible must become eligible for and participate in a second Draft.  No player shall be eligible for selection in more than two (2) NBA

My wording is probably wrong, but you get the idea.

The next time a player declares for the draft, NCAA rules already declare his amateur status revoked, and he is thereby committed to get in line and live with the outcome of the draft.

Bottom line - this is a loophole that doesn't need to be closed.  It is far to difficult and risky to exploit unless you happen to be Paul Muad'Dib Atreides.  College players have not proven that they are so stupid they can't figure out that the risk/reward ratio is too high.  Who cares if it messes with the rookie salary scale?  The NBA players can fix that anytime they want.  I have already disposed of the "rich get richer" argument.

So I say, leave it alone.  It ain't broke, so stop trying to fix it.