The Boxscore Geeks Show #15 - Paul Shirley on the NCAA

We have special guest Paul Shirley on the show today to talk the NCAA. Paul Shirley graduated from Iowa State with an engineering degree. He then spent a little under a decade as a pro basketball player, which included stints in the NBA, CBA, and pretty much all over Europe. After retiring from basketball, he went onto become a successful writer, including the book "Can I Keep My Jersey?", which tells of his time as a pro baller. He's joined Justin Halpern, of "Shit My Dad Says" fame, on the super great Short Corner Podcast, which is the best basketball podcast on the web! 

Make sure to follow Paul (@paulthenshirley) and Justin (@justin_halpern). Check out the Short Corner Podcast. And of course, check out Justin's show "Surviving Jack" on Fox at 9:30/8:30pm on Thursdays!

Our show is also available in audio only form (Some call it a podcast!)

I start the show sticking my foot in my mouth. Jonathan WeilerChris Yeh, and Vivek, you're definitely special guests! I also call "Iowa State" Iowa multiple times, and mistakenly believe Paul made the Final Four, when he made the Elite Eight. Ironically, I called Bill James on something similar a while ago. A thousand apologies!

As I've said before, being an active NBA player puts you in elite company. If the NBA goes for another 100 years, it still won't have employed as many people as Google employs right now!

Paul Shirley's Iowa State was upset in the NCAA Tournament in 2001, and an image of Paul crying was used heavily. Paul has written about this. Ironically, the NCAA has made YouTube take down the video clip of this event! That's our center image for those that have just looked at the YouTube clip but not listend yet.

Paul's name "PaulThenShirley" on Twitter is because it's common to call athletes by their last name, and Paul doesn't like that. Neither do I.

An "inspiration in spirit" episode to our "How I Met Your Mother" podcast was the Short Corner Podcast on Game of Thrones. Check it out if you haven't, Paul and Justin find out which Game of Thrones character virtually every NBA player is. Paul says they may have enough for a second episode too! Some other favorite Short Corner Podcasts: Where a Javier Bardem impersonator talks NBA MVPsthe interview with the real Steve Nash; and the one with the story where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar auditions for a part.

Paul Shirley's NBA career was short, but he did have one impressive game where he outplayed LeBron James on a per-minute basis. He also had a better rebounding rate than Eddie Curry! Fun note - economists don't seem to find players play better when it's a contract year.

Paul has a great situation about paying college athletes. Paul was on an academic scholarship, not an athletic. So why couldn't he have been paid as the "free education" was already taken care. Paul also points out, many of the athletes have low income backgrounds, so their tuition would not be the full sticker price given government and financial aid.

Paul point out the problem is the magnitude in difference of pay. Athletes bring in hundreds of millions each year to the school. The latest March Madness television deal is worth just south of $800 million a year! Dave Berri discussed this in the Northwestern Hearing. The official economics definition of this is "exploited".

Paul initially says players are obviously employees but recants. It turns out employees in general get treated better! NCAA players have very strict transfer rules, as compared with say "at-will employment". Also, the "Student Athlete" guidelines are pretty stringent. In fact, it says NCAA players can't get paid above market value in other ventures because of their image! And Paul elaborates that "Student Athletes" are limited in how much they can make.

Sure unions will likely help star players like Andrew Wiggins, but is it possible it will hurt "fringe players"? Paul's answer is similar to what we've heard from Dave Berri. Not all players need to get paid lots of money. Yes, scholarships could still work. The issue is how adament fans get about paying players. The book "Forty Millions Dollar Slaves" has some good insight on the underlying racial issues here.

Paul doesn't think there's an issue with top prospects playing in the D-League or Europe. Rather, the issue is that NBA and NCAA have a lot of power to mold public opinion. As long as the NBA keeps things like the draft around, they can definitely bully future players to "play ball" or lose millions in the draft. Imagine Wiggins "draft shock" after his NCAA performance but harsher for example.

It turns out Paul's best shot at getting drafted was like after his third season. Paul says the world has changed a lot in a decade though. Back in 2001, NBA teams didn't know all players, nor did players know they'd have a shot of getting drafted if they left. Fun note, Paul says his draft chances would be similar to Iowa State players today. Paul is actually taller than any player on Iowa State's 2013-2014 roster!

Paul think college can help develop you. Of course, he's not the norm as he was on an academic scholarship and got a legitimate degree. He does think it does prepare players for the mindset of playing in the NBA. Paul notes that a star like Marcus Fizer (while Paul was "more productive in the NBA", Fizer made significantly more money.) likely got some guidance in college. Of course, it didn't seem to stick once he got to the NBA.

Paul was a great guest. I've told him a few times he definitely needs to make an audio version of "Can I Keep My Jersey" that he reads himself. Make sure to bug him on Twitter or in the comments that you agree!