The NFL drinks the NCAA’s milkshake.

I’ve long thought that college football and basketball are sweet deals for the NFL and NBA – the pros get the benefit of several years’ worth of player development and sometimes player promotion at no expense.  With those pipelines in place, why go to the trouble and expense of maintaining elaborate minor leagues, as pro baseball does?

The question which John Infante asks is, even if it’s the NFL’s world and college football is just living in it, do the NCAA and its member institutions have a responsibility to develop student-athletes for a professional career?

If you say they do, that’s going to require a fairly radical restructuring of the status quo.

… You could run college athletics as a developmental league, with longer seasons, fewer games against higher levels of competition, and more incentives for producing pros than for winning games. And it would not be a revolutionary idea to provide an education and training in a discipline that the vast majority of students will never make a living from (see: many performing and arts majors).

But the best musicians are produced in conservatories and the best actors come from performing arts schools. A university can develop and produce talented entertainers, but it would be hard to argue that the specialized environment doesn’t have a number of advantages a university never will.

The fight over pay-for-play and academic standards is part of a larger discussion about what we do with athletes between the ages of about 12 and 22. To come up with an answer, we need an answer to this question: How important is going to high school and college with their peer group for professional athletes? Do they have to reach those milestones at the normal ages to get the benefits? Do they have to go to traditional educational institutions? Or is simply getting the education at some point the key?

It would be a lot easier if the NFL would step up to the plate, but it has zero financial incentive to do so.  That leaves the NCAA to fumble around with yet another piece to the amateurism puzzle it struggles to solve.

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8 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

8 responses to “The NFL drinks the NCAA’s milkshake.

  1. paul

    The problem with professional football is that for those fortunate enough to make it to the N.F.L. the average career is what? We tend to quote the standard 3 to 5 years. Roger Goodell begs to differ. “There is a little bit of a misrepresentation or a misunderstanding on that. Frequently, it is said that the average career is about 3.5 years. In fact, if a player makes an opening day roster, his career is very close to six years,” Commissioner Goodell said. “If you are a first-round draft choice, the average career is close to nine years. That 3.5-year average is really a misrepresentation. What it adds is a lot of players who don’t make an NFL roster and it brings down the average.” So MOST players are done well before the age of thirty. The really talented ones might make 33 or 34. That leaves them with an awful lot of living to do. If they never graduate high school or college, how good are their employment options? Not very. Plus, many will be dealing with fairly serious ongoing health issues.

  2. Connor

    I’ve long thought that making “football” a degree worthy field of study in college would alleviate a lot of what is wrong with the student-athlete model right now. If you gave the football players credits for being on the team, for practicing, for working out, they wouldn’t be as burdened with an entire separate course of study that most of them have no interest in. Even if most of them don’t make it as players many will go into coaching or broadcasting, some career based on the training they received in football, not math. If a kid wanted to do biology at the same time as football, go for it, but it shouldn’t be required.
    It’s probably too much to ask Universities to recognize a discipline so blue collar as professional athlete, however.

    • Cojones

      Don’t think the last paragraph holds up as good as your prior reasoning since I see millions poured into athletic programs at UGA for facilities, equipment and health. Many subjects in academia are geared toward training in athletic professions to include coaching , teaching and professional sports. Business degrees for sports businesses, Biology and Health degrees trending toward support of athletic industries and Engineering slanted toward Bioengineering. We just don’t look at the various degrees that can fit hand in hand with athletics with an eye toward that specialty.

      On the civil side we don’t highlight how playing sports on a team adds up to civil discourse and learning from previous stereotyped images of others and the promotion of civic causes that benefit society in general. Professional athletes don’t look so blue collar now, do they?

      • Connor

        I was probably being a bit snarky, for which I apologize. But to your point, with all of the resources being poured into athletics by universities, does it make any sense for those not to be stand-alone degree eligible majors? And I’m not talking about sports marketing, or some other discipline outside of athletics. Why can’t a scholarship football player get a Football Degree from UGA? Why can’t the schools recognize that playing football or basketball, or any sport, is a very legitimate career choice today? It just seems bizarre that an institution of higher learning would devote millions of dollars annually for facilities and staff and offer dozens of students full scholarships in a discipline which they can’t actually major in.

        • Cojones

          And your posts were taken well and criticism wasn’t intended. You distictly referred to “Football” which I just included generally into athletics. My attempt was to draw attention to those degrees we generally think as belonging to professions (business, health, science) and demonstrate how we generally don’t think of Athletes (Football players) as obtaining those degrees, but they do. And all of those degree fields are wrapped into athletic programs and percepted athletic degrees. Football players are represented by degree attainment in those fields and should be perceived as white collar and blue collar.

          If you were referring to a political comment by Santorum concerning “snobbish college degrees” , I completely missed the point, but proved anyway that college football players obtain these snob degrees (and are drawn into the “liberal” trap of logical thought by those mind-twisting professors).

          When they are college trained, they don’t just walk out the door as a hunk of meat to be used by the NFL. If the NFL had a separate training farm team, then they would walk out as hunks of meat to be used up and cast aside. The college system is the only life career saving grace for these young men after an athletic sports career.

          • shane#1

            Both of you make valid points. There is more to being a NFL player than just knowledge of football. I have been in favor of a pro sports degree for some time. I watched Harris English play golf this weekend and I think the rookie will make mucho dinero in the PGA. How are these kids being taught to manage that amount of money? Athletic careers are short and produce massive amounts of money for people who are still very young. We see athletes retire and go broke all the time, most are from low to moderate income families. Hell, I have blown enough money and my old man tried to teach us how to handle money. Of course, when he was drinking he was no Bill Gates himself.

          • Connor

            I think you’re overvaluing the degrees some athletes end up with. You could also make the argument that an NFL farm system might actually care MORE about the players well being than a university would. The hypothetical NFL farm system would be making a legitimate financial investement from which it would hope to generate long-term gain. The University knows in 5 years, tops, its obligation to the athlete is over. Even earlier if they “violate team rules.”
            There are certainly plenty of athletes who take advantage of their athletic prowess to achieve a degree in something else. That’s all well and good and should be encouraged, but it shouldn’t be required.

  3. By Georgia We Did It

    I’m late to the party on this post, but this idea isn’t that far fetched. Don’t most tennies prodigies hail from Bradenton Florida where that camp/school is set up? What about overseas soccer players? They are taken right out of normal schools and put into “academies” that help foster an atheltic environment and produce better players. If we have the School of business, science, chemistry, etc. why not have the Vince Dooley school of football?