Notre Dame administrators call for creation of NFL minor league and elimination of NBA's one-and-done rule

Notre Dame’s president and athletic director believe the NFL should create a minor league and that the NBA should get rid of its rule preventing players from being draft-eligible immediately after high school.

In a New York Times op-ed published Thursday, Fr. John Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick said that college sports were in "crisis" and that changes should be made to help preserve them. The two biggest suggestions from their column were their proposition of a feeder league for the NFL and the revocation of the NBA's one-and-done rule.

College football currently serves as the de facto development system for the NFL because of the league’s rule that players can’t be drafted until they are three years out of high school. The administrators said in their piece that “college athletics is a treasured national institution” and that a minor league for the NFL would help preserve it.

Professional athletics must play a role, too. Though baseball and hockey allow players to go pro right after high school, the N.B.A. age requirement for draft eligibility forces most of the highly talented players to attend one year of college. The N.F.L. offers no alternative to intercollegiate football until a player has been out of high school for at least three years. Both policies push talented young players to enroll in college regardless of whether they have any interest in the educational experience it offers.

To ensure that players arrive at college only after making an informed choice — and a real commitment to learning — we urge the N.F.L. to establish a minor league alternative for young players. Similarly, we hope that the N.B.A. and its Players' Union, in accord with the 2018 Commission on College Basketball, use the upcoming contract negotiations to eliminate the "one and done" rule and allow 18-year-olds to proceed directly to the league.

The NFL has shown no public willingness to change its rules regarding draft eligibility anytime soon. It’s not feasible for teenagers to make the leap directly to the NFL and the implementation of a minor league would come at a significant time and money expense for the league when college football has functioned well enough as a feeder system for decades.

Conversely, the NBA could get rid of its one-and-done rule. The rule setting the minimum draft age at 19 was implemented in the 2000s and came after players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and many others went straight from high school to the association. The league’s current collective bargaining agreement between teams and players expires after the 2023-24 season and a new agreement could include a modification to the rule.

NCAA tournament TV ratings up

The declaration that college sports are in crisis comes a day after Notre Dame made the choice to hire Penn State basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry on a seven-year deal reportedly worth over $4 million per season.

The claim also comes as fan interest hasn’t waned in college sports after state legislatures forced the NCAA to loosen its outdated amateurism rules. The NCAA long prohibited players from making money off their image rights but was forced to roll back those rules as states like Florida and California moved to allow college athletes to make money off their likenesses.

The rules haven’t affected the on-field product and, in some cases, have made staying in college instead of going pro a more attractive alternative for athletes because of the earning opportunities college athletics now provide.

Viewership for the first two rounds of both the men's and women's NCAA tournaments are up in 2023 and the 2022 college football season continued to draw extremely strong television audiences. Viewership for the women's tournament is up almost 30% from 2022 while the men's tournament was buoyed by Fairleigh Dickinson's upset of Purdue in the first round.