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.