When Brandon Knight committed to the University of Kentucky earlier this month, he did not do so in the usual way that high school athletes do, by signing a letter of intent. Rather, the Pine Crest School point guard, regarded among the top few players in this year's senior class, signed an "aid agreement" that ostensibly means the university is committed to giving Knight a scholarship for one year but that he's not committed to playing for the Wildcats.
It's a clever sleight-of-hand for an athlete who, judging by his excellent grades, is not your stereotypical dumb jock.
And it's hard to blame Knight for wanting control of his destiny. Had he signed a letter of intent then he'd be obligated to play for Kentucky and no other school, regardless of what might happen (coaching change, NCAA sanctions, etc.) between his commitment and the start of the season.
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The Sports Illustrated writer may be right in predicting Knight's move will trigger "chaos" for next year's crop of ballyhooed prep basketball players, who will want the same freedoms.
But you can trust that the NCAA is already looking for a way to close this loophole that Knight and his inner circle found.
Of course, that means new questions about how best to strike a balance between the two forms of exploitation that exist in major college athletics. The university makes a ton of money by showcasing an athlete's skills. The athletes use their skills to get a free college education and -- in the case of the best -- a launching pad for a lucrative professional sports career.
As a college sports fan, I think the athlete deserves to have more freedom to change his mind about a college destination than he gets from a letter of intent. On the other hand, he shouldn't be allowed to switch schools and jerseys on a whim. Maybe the solution is to do away with the aid agreement but then loosen up the letter of intent, inserting more provisions by which an athlete can petition for a change of school without penalty, so long as he proves that the school he signed with had failed to deliver on guarantees made during the recruiting process that have an impact on his future.