I always look for a good rant or two after draft day, and here comes Kevin Scarbinsky’s stay in school, kids! piece about how early entrants should be allowed to return to school if they’re not drafted to fill the bill.
You could argue that this could impact scholarship numbers because players declare in January and schools sign recruits in February knowing how many openings they have. If a school has a full complement of 85 players on scholarship, an undrafted underclassmen who wanted to return would put that school over the limit.
Truth is, few schools actually have 85 players on scholarship, and the NCAA could grant waivers for underdrafted underclassmen if they did.
Isn’t the NCAA all about athletes being students as well? Shouldn’t the NCAA want to give players every opportunity to continue their education? And why would the NFL care either way? NFL teams might get a more polished and mature prospect to consider the next year.
If you care about the players, as the NCAA and the NFL should, it just makes sense to give them a chance to continue their formal and football educations.
Uh, you done there? Good. Allow Jim Weber to retort.
First, let me give you a little bit of background information with an assist from John Infante of the Bylaw Blog. Contrary to popular belief, a player who declares early for the NFL draft and goes unpicked can return to school within 72 hours of the draft’s conclusion if he hasn’t signed with an agent. In college hockey and baseball, players can even return to school after being drafted (which happens after high school or their junior year) because they don’t declare early; all players except freshmen and sophomores are eligible to be drafted.
The loophole that college baseball and hockey players have used in order to maintain their eligibility and keep the option of returning to school open is using agents only as “advisors” who they pay at their going rates for their services as opposed to signing a contract. Case in point: Baseball super agent Scott Boras is an “advisor” to many high school and college baseball players with the idea he will become their agent once they turn pro.
Because football players who get selected in the NFL draft must leave school, a market has never really developed for college football “advisors.” But with around 30% of early entries going undrafted the last two years, it’s clear those with late-round grades would be wise to choose this route instead.
Weber’s post is from 2013. The NCAA provision he links to has been on the books in one form or fashion since 2002. Really.
In football, an enrolled student-athlete (as opposed to a prospective student-athlete) may enter the National Football League draft one time during his collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league and the student-athlete declares his intention to resume intercollegiate participation within 72 hours following the National Football League draft declaration date. The student-athlete’s declaration of intent shall be in writing to the institution’s director of athletics. (Adopted: 10/31/02, Revised: 4/14/03, 12/15/06)
How many kids take advantage of that rule? Hell, how many of ’em know about the rule? Weber suggests one reason few, if any, do is because undergrads sign with agents before the draft, instead of merely seeking advisory assistance, and I have no doubt that’s just how agents like it.
But what’s the schools’ excuse? What about Scarbinsky’s noble sentiment? Someone more cynical than me might suggest the current format makes it easier for coaches to scare student-athletes into staying by painting a decision to leave early as an one-way ticket with no return, whereas if college players chose to follow the guidelines the NCAA laid down and preserve a right to return, then they would have a much safer means of testing the waters. Which might very well make it tempting for more kids to test the waters than we already see doing so. Again, that would be something coming from someone more cynical than me. Me? I’m just sayin’.