WNBA Eligibility Rules Reach Tipping Point Following NCAA Women’s Tournament Success

April 17, 2023 : The WNBA draft recently took place, but some top college players were missing from the list of eligible candidates. Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark could not enter the draft due to the strict eligibility requirements of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA).

Unlike the NBA, where players can enter the draft at 19, the WNBA has age restrictions. College players must turn 22 during the draft’s calendar year, have completed a four-year degree, will graduate within three months of the draft, or have gone to a four-year school where their original class would have graduated or will graduate within three months of the draft. Reese is 20 years old and a sophomore, and Clark is 21 and a junior.

Many fans have called for the WNBPA to reconsider its rules, especially given the success of some of the NCAA’s young players this year. However, coaches and front office personnel cannot comment on the rules as they fall under the Players Association’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The WNBPA did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to the strict eligibility requirements, WNBA players earn considerably less than their male counterparts. The average WNBA salary in 2021 was $120,648, and only 14 players made over $200,000. Aliyah Boston, this year’s number 1 draft pick, will earn $74,305 in base salary.

For many top players, the NCAA’s Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rule offers an opportunity to earn more income as college athletes than as professional basketball players. As of April 16, 2023, NCAA women’s tournament Outstanding Player Angel Reese has a valuation of $1.2 million, according to On3. Caitlin Clark’s NIL value is $830,000. Both players have signed deals with major corporations like Nike, McDonald’s, and Bose.

Interestingly, the Cavinder twins, Haley and Hanna, who are second only to Reese in valuation, have decided to leave college basketball after four years, forgoing their extra Covid season. They helped lead Miami to the Elite Eight in 2023 but hinted that they may be looking to start careers in the WWE.