Dallas Buyers Club: Mark Cuban stirs up men’s college hoops landscape

As if the NCAA wasn’t under enough scrutiny, the sports world’s most outspoken billionaire, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, has turned up the heat.

Cuban told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the NCAA college basketball rules are “hypocritical” and said he even offered one conference $500 million to withdraw from the NCAA.

“I actually talked to a college AD and I said, ‘For your conference, the top 10 teams, I would put up $500 million for you to withdraw from the NCAA and create a new conference or new setup without the same hypocrisy geared toward student-athletes,’ ” Cuban said in the Star-Telegram article. “They laughed, but I was serious.”

The offer might seem ridiculous, but as Cuban elaborated, it began to make more sense.

“The NCAA rules are so hypocritical. There’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go (to college), because he’s not going to class, (and) he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League,” Cuban said.

I’m not in the habit of agreeing with Mark Cuban, and in fact, I think he tends to be pretty pompous most of the time. But his logic is hard to argue with here.

If the goal is to ultimately get to the NBA — and for one-and-dones, it is — then going and playing for an NCAA Division I program can be a huge hassle for a potential pro.

Just ask ASU star redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson, who was forced to sit his first year out of high school because of academic ineligibility.

Make no mistake, Carson was not ready to go straight to the NBA out of high school and his time at ASU has been a blessing for the program, but if Carson would have gone to the D-League out of high school, he would have been playing competitively for that first year that he was forced to sit and who knows what that would have done to his trajectory.

It wouldn’t have been any less productive for Carson, and he would have been able to focus strictly on basketball as opposed to having to worry about school and all of the other trappings that come with being in college.

Of course Carson stuck around for his sophomore season, so he isn’t exactly a one-and-done, but his time at ASU has always been a stepping stone on his way to the NBA. Anyone who disagrees with that is, frankly, in denial. And while Carson may have improved his draft stock by sticking around, to say that he wouldn’t have been able to do the same thing in the D-League or that he would have been any less of a player is just wrong.

The Pac-12 is talented and competitive, but it’s certainly not the NBA, where Carson would have been by now had he played his first year in the D-League.

And if you think I am underestimating the value of a student-athlete’s education, think again.

Before the season started, I talked to senior guard Jermaine Marshall, and he was really excited, not just about the opportunity to play his final year as a Sun Devil in the fast paced Pac-12, but also for the opportunity to do so and to graduate with a Master’s degree from ASU.

When I asked Marshall about the possibility of playing in the NBA, he said he would love to do so, but that if it didn’t work out, he would be fine knowing that he got a stellar education and two degrees, one from Penn State and the other from ASU.

Marshall was able to do this all while managing to have an impact at ASU — arguably bigger than Carson’s — so the NCAA system worked perfectly for him.

The current men’s basketball climate at ASU shows that both sides of the argument have merit, but what I think Cuban is trying to address is that the NCAA (or the NBA) shouldn’t stop a man from trying to make a living by forcing him to spend a year in college, or worse, sending him overseas to do so.

“The balance should be, if you go to the D-League and elect to take classes and don’t make it, we’ll still continue to pay for your classes until your class would graduate,” Cuban said.

That sounds like a pretty good deal to me, and it would change the NCAA for the better by allowing potential one-and-dones to hone their skills in the D-League with the opportunity to get an education. Meanwhile, this would free up scholarships for potential four or five-year senior studs like Marshall.

However, Cuban followed up with, “There’s no reason for the NCAA to exist. None.”

This is where I disagree, and I believe players like Marshall would as well.

Reach the columnist at npmendo@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NPMendoza