Earlier this week, baseball phenom Bryce Harper decided to pass on two years of high school to help facilitate an earlier start to his professional baseball career. Earlier this year, Jeremy Tyler made a similar choice so he could play basketball in Europe. For many years, young men have left college early for the NFL and NBA. Tennis players and golfers have always pursued their sporting interests at the expense of getting an education.
The sun keeps rising every morning and setting every night, so what's the big deal about Epiphanny Prince leaving Rutgers after her junior year to play professional basketball in Europe? Maybe things won't work out for Prince in the pros, but it's unlikely another year of college was going to change the outcome.
Surely, 21-year-olds who can fight and die in wars, vote in elections and pay taxes have a right to choose their own life path, and its attendant risks, without clucking from a gallery of onlookers. They can't play in the WNBA -- you need to be 22 or a college graduate, but Prince will be eligible for the 2010 Draft -- but other than that the world is theirs for the taking.
Yet some in college basketball are treating the news like it is one of the signs of the apocolypse. LSU women's basketball coach Van Chancellor, for example.
“I really hate to see any college kid leave college before their eligibility is up,” he said. “I’ve been a pro coach. I’ve been a college coach. I’ve seen every side of this deal. And the equation is such that it’s hard enough in the women’s game to make enough money for a lifetime. You’re going to have to have a college education."
Well, Van, you'll be happy to know that Prince, 10 credits shy of a degree, plans to go to summer school at Rutgers. She hopes to graduate in advance of next April's WNBA Draft. Even if she doesn't hardly has an insurmountable mountain of school work left in front of her before she can graduate from college. So, who is the loser here? Prince or Rutgers?
Rutgers, obviously, and, by extension, the hierarchy of college sports. Prince is living her life and making her choices, isn't it well past time for people to just accept that there are different routes through life and different motivations for choices?
The continual moralizing when athletes make choices that don't serve to benefit the existing power structure grew tiresome long ago. Prince is an adult and made an adult decision to try a different path toward whatever goals she has set forth for her life. Just wish her well, and save the patronizing head-shaking for something else.