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Caulton Tudor

NFL would pay for college football changes

Posted September 29, 2013

When Big 10 Conference Commissioner Jim Delany this week said he favors allowing athletes in all sports to go directly from high school to the pros, you could all but hear NFL owners groan.

Of all involved parties – including college players, fans, coaches and administrators – the NFL stands to lose money biggest and quickest should the current college football model undergo drastic changes.

Players skipping the college level would be a drastic change to end all drastic changes for the NFL.

Under the NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement with the players association, high school seniors have to wait for three years before being eligible for the draft. Whether that practice could withstand serious legal challenges is somewhat debatable, but it is the process that has worked for years because colleges have served as an ideal transitional vehicle.

But it’s a fragile balance that exists primarily because 100 or so colleges have made it possible for the most talented high school players to keep playing regardless of their academic standing.

That’s why NFL owners always have cringed at the various academic reform movements, especially those targeted at entrance requirements. If colleges ever reverted to admissions policies that required athletes to meet the same entrance requirements as rank-and-file freshman, the NFL would be forced to immediately launch the most elaborate and expensive scouting system in athletic history.

You don’t read or hear much about it, but almost all of the NFL’s surreal popularity has been achieved by freeloading on college scouting, recruiting, player development, health/insurance support system and the exposure top players gain at the college level.

To some extent, the NBA follows the same process. But all it really takes to win an NBA championship is a core of five or six stars, many of whom perform at a high level for more than 10 pro seasons.

It’s an apple/apple tree comparison.

If the NFL (where most careers last less than four seasons) had go out and find the best high school players on its own, the cost to each of the 32 franchises would soar into the millions just in scouting staff salaries alone. 

It then would cost those franchises even more money – three or four times as much – to install a minor league operation. Dozens of stadiums would have to be built or at least rented.

Practice facilities would be needed, coaching staffs, administrative offices. It would be a windfall for the general economy but a financial nightmare for the billionaire owners.

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  • Gunnstigator Sep 29, 10:22 p.m.

    Schools have been notorious about hiding behind "confidentiality" concerns to mask the laxity of... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Very interesting solution, Ken; you have a very analytical mind. Your idea suggests you want to emphasize the student part of the student/athlete equation. It sounds like a very good, well thought-out approach to a difficult situation. Players would be provided an education in addition to honing their athletic skills and therefore providing them a career should they not make it in professional sports.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 29, 5:09 p.m.

    Schools have been notorious about hiding behind "confidentiality" concerns to mask the laxity of... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Ken... I like your thinking and creative approach. Agreed - universities LOVE the FERPA law for students and confidentiality laws for employees, and they will always figure out a way to invoke those laws to not talk about what they don't want to talk about. SATs of 900? Actually some "exceptions" with regard to admissions will have lower than that! Coaches would typically be ecstatic about a 5-star with a 900 SAT!

    Dropping the SAT? Not going to happen anytime soon. I truly like your "test" as you describe it, but despite continual discussion and complaint about the imperfections of the SAT I see nothing on the horizon to replace it. It is positively correlated with college academic success... although not strongly. There are far too many factors that impact college academic success - no one test can measure all of them. Even really academically strong kids "flunk out" - even without spending 40-60 hours or more per week on practicing and playing a sport.

    I like the "ineligible to play" freshman year. I'm barely old enough to remember that being the norm. I saw no indication that there was a negative to it... only thing was the occasional true standout player who could have played on the "varsity" that everyone would wring their hands about. The notion of that year being an "adjustment" to all of college life, but particularly to the academic part, was valid then and would be today... perhaps even more today.

    I need to think through it a bit more... but initially I like the "graduated, step-wise" approach you describe.

  • Ken D. Sep 29, 3:54 p.m.

    Schools have been notorious about hiding behind "confidentiality" concerns to mask the laxity of their admission policies when it comes to athletes. So, they won't ever tell you what the lowest scores were for their athletes. Just the averages. So if you recruit three five star players with SATs of 900, you only need three two star kids at 1300 to report an average of 1100, which doesn't sound too bad.

    My solution is to drop the SAT requirement entirely. Replace it with, not another "aptitude" test, but with an achievement test that demonstrates uniformly that a student has learned the things he should have. Forget high school GPAs. They can be faked, and often are by well meaning teachers who think they are doing an athlete a favor. The test should cover, not just math and vocabulary, but basic science, history, geography and civics.

    Then, during a freshman year in which he is ineligible to play, he should be required to pass at least 24 credits in courses required to earn a degree - no electives - with a solid GPA, say in the 2.3 - 2.5 range. If he does this, he earns two years of eligibility.

    During that two years, he must complete ALL the required course work. If he does, he earns two more years of eligibility in which he can take appropriate electives. If not, he is done and can move on to the NFL or get a job on a loading dock.

    If he earns his degree by that fifth year, he can play for one more year if he enrolls in graduate school. What does this do? It gives schools more incentive to recruit students who can succeed in college. If they can pass the achievement test in high school, they have the ability to succeed. But if they don't really want to be students after that, they will only have two years on the team. The ones who value the education will be able to contribute to the team for four or five years. Schools with a lot of fifth year players will be more competitive than those who keep losing players early.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 29, 2:17 p.m.

    Let's get something clear from the outset. Changes are probably coming, but there are a few... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    I agree that how "college football/basketball" would be in the "ideal world" that I would like and that I have described in many posts is not likely to happen. I always work toward achieving the ideal while recognizing there will be some compromises along the way and the "ideal" will not be achieved. Your first paragraph... I agree. Much as I'd like to see it, it will not happen.

    With regard to the second paragraph... I hardily agree that whatever standards are applied that they be uniformly applied within a division or level of play. However, I truly do not see a problem with holding athletes to the same admission standards as all students. I'm quite familiar with those at UNC. You may read and/or are told via the media of some very impressive average SAT and high school GPAs of the entering freshman class each year. But keep in mind that those are AVERAGES. A considerable number - probably around half - are admitted with LOWER SATs and GPAs, and the SATs/GPAs for those admitted who are in the bottom 10% of all admitted... may surprise you with regard to the actual SAT scores and GPAs. There is already ample opportunity for the athlete who is only "average" academically to be admitted "legitimately" - he does not have to be that proverbial "rocket scientist". My issue is with admitting those who TRULY do not have the academic prowess and attitude toward being a legitimate student necessary to even have a chance at success. Those are the ones that all universities must stop admitting - no matter how good they are as an athlete. If everyone does it... the playing field/court is "level" for all.

    Agree also with 3rd/last paragraph. Fans of those schools - as well as our local UNC - NC State - Duke - Wake Forest - will continue to avidly, with passion support their football and basketball teams, except I believe the support would continue even if those schools had NO athletes who did not "belong in college".

  • Ken D. Sep 29, 1:39 p.m.

    Let's get something clear from the outset. Changes are probably coming, but there are a few things that are never going to happen. First, the NFL is not going to start a developmental league following the NBA model. There isn't a market for it in basketball, and there won't be a market for it in football. The difference is that football is enormously more expensive than basketball.

    Second, universities are never going to require that all football and basketball players be held to the same admission standards as non-athletes. Nor do they need to. They only need to ensure that the standards that they do apply are uniformly followed by all schools in the same level of competition (division). What they should do is make those standards much stricter than they are now. This is where the BCS conferences can take the lead. If you want to play with us, and share in all that TV money, raise your standards. Let the marginal students play in a lower division.

    Nobody is going to pay to watch schools play for a championship of an organization that doesn't include the Michigans, Ohio States, Southern Cals, Alabama, Sooners, Irish, etc. and fans will continue to watch those power schools even if they have a couple fewer athletes who don't belong in college.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 29, 1:38 p.m.

    Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of listening to people like Jim Delaney shift the blame for... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Ken... I agree! In particular, I have written often and passionately about what I believe may be is the main point of your comment - namely that the colleges/universities indeed have the power to impose the same academic requirements for athletes as any other student. There are two key entities in this matter... the Chancellor/Presidents and the Boards of Trustees. Almost always the Chancellor/President will need the backing of the Trustees. Part of the problems that developed at UNC was due to - as one poster put it weeks ago - the "hijacking" of the Board of Trustees by fervent football fans who wanted UNC to be a national contender and that led to the hiring of Butch Davis. Nevertheless.... the authority and power is there, but the "backbone" at this point in time is like jello. And... I very much agree that with "stricter" academic standards for the athletes - the reduction in the quality of the competition would likely not even be noticeable... and UNC fans would continue to be UNC fans and support UNC... they will not change their allegiance to Duke or NC State... or vice-versa. Mandating that athletes be legitimate students is absolutely, unequivocally necessary!

  • Ken D. Sep 29, 1:01 p.m.

    Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of listening to people like Jim Delaney shift the blame for the problems with intercollegiate athletics to other people. Sometimes the boogeyman is the NFL/NBA, sometimes it is the smaller colleges that are holding schools like those in the Big Ten back.

    In my view, the reality is that people like Delaney and the schools they represent have all the power they need to address the problems. They just don't have the backbone. Don't like the "one and done" rule? Simple solution - no freshman eligibility.

    If the presidents of the football power conference schools wanted to, they could unilaterally impose much tougher academic requirements for athletes without any noticeable reduction in the quality of the competition. Are they afraid that if they required their players to be legitimate students that fans would shift their allegiance and their dollars to schools from lesser conferences?

    Let's make a grand bargain here. Let's stop worrying about whether athletes are getting paid, and in exchange require that they be legitimate students. Let's reward schools by giving more eligibility to students who perform in the classroom and less to those who are just in it to enhance a pro career.

    It can be done, and the BCS schools have the power to make it happen. They just have to have the will to do it.

  • PricelessGemUNC Sep 29, 12:41 p.m.

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  • Objective Scientist Sep 29, 12:27 p.m.

    "You don’t read or hear much about it, but almost all of the NFL’s surreal popularity has been achieved by freeloading on college scouting, recruiting, player development, health/insurance support system and the exposure top players gain at the college level." - from the article.

    While the statement "makes sense"... and perhaps - PERHAPS - could be true to some degree, but... what research supports the statement? If is likely not a "is it true" vs "is it not true" situation as much as it is "to what degree" is this the case? To what degree does the typical NFL fan CARE about how a player "got there" - straight out of high school, via a "rookie" or developmental league, or from university program? It is my belief that once the player is there - in the NFL on the team to which the fan is devoted - and is performing well, the fan's allegiance to, devotion to, passion for the player, the team, etc. will be there and evident regardless of how the play got to the NFL. I see nothing to suggest that the popularity of the NFL will drop off if universities made some of the changes discussed. And - "so what"? So what if the NFL has to make some adjustments - it can do that and thrive! Why should our universities "foot the bill" and deal with all of the negative "fall-out" from football players who are are not capable of college level academic work and who often have "poor character" that cause the team, athletic program, and university some serious problems? Why? I don't believe there is any "good" answer to that question... certainly not one that justifies us to maintain the status quo or move even more into the direction intercollegiate football has gone.

  • Objective Scientist Sep 29, 11:42 a.m.

    My best guess - and l readily acknowledge that it is a "guess" albeit based on decades of... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    I hope you enjoyed the game in Chapel Hill yesterday, since you claim to be a loyal fan and... View More

    — Posted by 903 still living with mama

    903... if you didn't like my first post, you certainly did not like my continuation of it. If you believe that the only way to have a high quality athletic program in a university is to spend more and more money in a very broad based "arms race" and to award scholarships to athletes who have neither the academic prowess to succeed in college level classes nor the desire/motivation to attend those classes and legitimately work toward a degree... and concomitantly suffer all the ills of such programs and "damage" to the broader university... then we will simply have to "agree to disagree".

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