Allen Sanderson writes on the economics of sports over at the Library of Economics and Liberty (discl: I’m the features editor there.) Here’s his analysis of athletes who drop out of college to turn pro:
Why is it that we were not crushed when Reese Witherspoon dropped out of Stanford after one year but we are bummed when a college basketball player leaves after a year (Carmelo Anthony) or doesn’t go at all (LeBron Jemes, NBA Rookie of the Year for 2003-2004)? Can one make a meaningful distinction between Whoopi Goldberg, who dropped out of high school, Nicholas Cage, who passed a GED so he could escape high school in Beverly Hills and get on with his acting ambitions, high school graduates Sean Penn and Sarah Jessica Parker, and Ashley Judd, who graduated phi beta kappa from Kentucky (where her fellow Wildcat, George Clooney, dropped out)? Bill Gates and Michael Dell seem to have managed just fine without a BA.
In each instance, the person weighed benefits and costs associated with the alternative uses of his or her time and chose an option thought to be more career-enhancing, just as Mick Jagger did when continuing his study of economics at the London School of Economics interfered with rehearsals and performances of a start-up musical group. My selfish interest in having athletes put in their four years of indentured servitude so that I can watch high quality intercollegiate sports, at a cost to them of half their productive earning years and several million dollars, should be laughed out of court and sports bars.