Ever heard of a work-study program? The Professional Collegiate League hopes to put a unique spin on the concept when it tips off in 2021.
The basketball upstart plans to pay college-age athletes to play while they also receive classroom instruction. Calling itself “college sports reimagined,” the PCL aims to be something of an NCAA/NBA hybrid.
“Our inaugural season is scheduled to tip off in June 2021 with the playoffs planned for Labor Day weekend in September,” said Ricky Volante, PCL CEO and co-founder of the league. “Depending on several factors, the teams will play between 20-24 regular season games each. Our overall player development program runs from May-April, but the regular season was scheduled to maximize attendance in class during the school year.”
Volante and league officials have certainly done their homework, and their plan of action is impressive. The league website defines several goals, one of which is “shifting the paradigm.”
For example, research shows that 50 percent of college basketball players in Power 5 conferences come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. While colleges provide scholarships, the PCL will offer wages along with academic opportunities.
“Our max salary athletes will earn $150,000 per season, while we’re aiming to have a floor of $50,000 per season – this does not include their scholarship,” Volante said. “Salaries will be determined based on several factors, including talent, marketability, social following, market, etc.”
For every kid who is NBA-ready right out of high school – a rarity – there are thousands more who need to hone their skills but also want to earn a paycheck while going to school. To that end, the PCL will assist players in marketing themselves. And since only a handful of players make it professionally, the PCL is designed to prepare them for life with or without basketball.
A primary league mission is to, “… Assist them in building a personal and professional brand that will extend on and off the court, so that each can ‘build their business’ without waiting for a sport-based payday that may never come.”
When I first heard about the organization last year (it was originally known as the Historical Basketball League) I immediately thought of Pacific Pro Football, which aimed to give college age football players a professional option. Yet while Pac Pro was founded in 2017 but has seemingly gone dormant, the Professional Collegiate League already has an infrastructure.
Volante is one of four members of the executive team, which includes chief operating officer David West, chief development officer Keith Sparks and co-founder and chief innovation officer Andy Schwarz.
There are also two advisory boards, one comprised of former athletes (including NBA Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond and NFL Hall of Famers Champ Bailey and Terrell Owens) and another that features people with experience in business, entertainment and journalism.
Of course fans are more interested in what happens on the court, and the PCL has already identified its eight inaugural teams. Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Richmond and Washington D.C. will be part of the circuit’s single entity model and will begin play next summer.
By design, the PCL is concentrating on the East Coast for its first season, with plans to form eight team divisions in other quadrants of the United States over the next five years. Starting out regionally will help hold down costs.
As for the style of play, Volante said it will look familiar.
“We will be playing under NBA rules – mostly,” he said. “There will be some twists and variations that we implement, however, nothing that would be considered “gimmicky.” We feel it’s important to have rules in place that prepare athletes for the professional game, as well as offensive and defensive systems and terminology.”
Players have already been scouted, but will have to decide for themselves if they want to remain eligible to play traditional college ball or go pro via the PCL.
As a fan of alternative sports, I certainly hope the Professional Collegiate League becomes more than just a concept. I think there’s a place for its business model, and done right it could become a game-changer in years to come.
Regardless, there’s always room for more basketball.
For more information on the PCL, go to www.thepcleague.com.