Sometimes, it’s not the NCAA’s fault.

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’.


Filed under College Football, The NCAA, The NFL Is Your Friend.

27 responses to “Sometimes, it’s not the NCAA’s fault.

  1. Derek

    My cynicism says that any kid with enough sense to follow these rules has enough sense to know whether he’ll be drafted. I don’t know how many kids declare who aren’t either absolutely convinced they’ll be drafted or at worst make a club as a free agent. Suggesting that a kid could declare, be skeptical about his chances, skip spring ball while preparing for the draft and then show back up for summer workouts is a nice idea in theory, but not terribly practical.

    Moreover, don’t the agents, in addition to providing cash pending an NFL contract, lobby for these kids with the various teams? Didn’t we see that play out with Tunsil? What if you get fourth round money when you should have gotten second round money had you been represented?

    It’s sounds to me like one of those loopholes that makes the NCAA look good but nobody ever will utilize it.


    • hassan

      I don’t know. I think there may be a few kids that are hoping for at least 3rd round and get picked in the 5th or worse. If going back for their senior year might prop them up another round or two, that might be worth coming back for. While it might not be the big thing that it is in baseball, I am surprised that I have never seen it done before.


  2. hassan

    Begs the question of why more schools don’t have that conversation with some of the borderline players?

    “Hey man, I know you want to try for the draft, but the coaching staff thinks you might not go as high as you think. If you want to give it a shot, go ahead. Just don’t sign with an agent and we’ll hold your spot open for your senior year.”

    Oh wait…now I get why not. Few coaches are going to be fired up at risking a scholarship going unused.


  3. Tim In Sav

    How about the kids stay in school for 4 years (or 5 if they redshirt) and get a degree before they declare.


  4. MGW

    Thats quite a pickle. I don’t follow baseball very much (much less the MLB draft), but how do they handle the situation where a kid is drafted and then stays in/goes to college?

    Clearly MLB has a way of dealing with that without it being a huge issue, but transitioning the NFL to that sort of system seems like it would be viewed as a huge problem.


    • MGW

      Also, can a kid get picked and still go back to school? because that’d be the biggest problem for the NFL. I doubt the league cares as much about a kid not getting picked and going back to school.

      Side note, the issue with how to handle spring practice while some of the kids may or may not be on the team come the fall would be a doozy.


  5. Visionary

    How about if they don’t get drafted, they all get to go to Auburn? They’re always on the lookout for other teams’ players.


  6. Waltondawg

    Not to mention that most of the kids that declare for the draft either don’t enroll in classes or just quit going to school altogether in order to “prepare for the draft”. Their good academic standing being in question would prohibit more than a few of the undrafted from returning to school after the draft. That’s just me saying….


    • PTC DAWG

      No doubt, but don’t let the truth get in the way of a good Senator rant…he is getting good, no doubt.


  7. heyberto

    The reason it hasn’t been used is because Saban hasn’t had any players useful enough to bring back to the team. Because he has to know about this possibility.. right? Wait…


  8. I thought the rule was that the athlete had 72 hours after the drop dead date for declaring for the draft in January to return to school; not after the completion of the NFL draft. I believe this rule was adopted after Donte Stallworth declared for the draft, then changed his mind but wasn’t allowed to return to school, even though he hadn’t signed with an agent.


    • Michael

      That’s also my read of the rule. The bylaw that Weber is citing does not support his own argument. That said, the rule also makes reference to the athlete not being drafted, which would be superfluous if the deadline is 72 hours after the early entry declaration deadline because no one is going the be drafted by that point. So maybe the rule is just poorly drafted.


  9. Irwin R. Fletcher

    Senator…hate to rain on the collective parade here, but what neither of these guys understand is the actual reality of what it takes to prepare for the draft. That more than any NCAA bylaw (knowledge or otherwise) dictates why kids sign with agents.

    Here is the deal…as soon as a kid declares, he starts training for the combine. He’s got 8 weeks to get ready…and that training can cost over $30K (NON REFUNDABLE) depending on where you go. BTW, agents pay for that. Not the players…agents. (you want to know why it’s hard to break in to that industry…try signing a guy that goes in the 7th round…take 3%…you’ll recoup expenses potentially in Year 3 if he makes it that long).

    And there is a cottage industry of trainers that get paid tens of thousands for daily drills, nutrition, room and board, etc.
    …I could list 20 of them.

    But wait, there’s more …

    See…these places have relationships with agents. (feel free to check their client list to an agency client list…it’s not coincidence) And if you don’t sign with a certain agent, you often don’t have access. So if even if you had the money and wanted to bet it on yourself, you still would only have very few choices of where to train.

    Before you say ‘don’t pay it’ and train on your own..what happens to the kid that runs a 4.6 instead of a 4.5 because your technique sucks and you didn’t drop that extra 1.5 lbs because you were doing nutrition off the internet instead of by a trained nutritionist…that’s a cost to you of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars if you drop from round 2 to 3, etc. Not to mention that I don’t think you can use the facilities at school any more (or trainers) if you have declared eligible for the draft.

    Nope…the bottom line is that if they could have the combine the first week of January, kids would just run, lift, etc. and wouldn’t have the pressure of sinking in tens of thousands upfront. But that sucker isn’t moving from the end of February. Nope…the only way underclassmen could ever come back is if the NCAA allowed agents to pay for the combine training without it killing the kid’s eligibility. And that isn’t happening anytime in the next decade.

    The underclassmen issue is either going to be solved by (1) a greater sense of self-awarenss (uhhhh…what’s next?); (2) moving the combine date up so that no one has time to spend $$ on training (so just moving the Super Bowl? No biggie…next?); or (3) paying a higher stipend to uperclassmen or even to guys who get a draft grade of ‘draftable’ that then choose to stay in school. (HA HA HA HA)

    Honestly, this one isn’t worth anyone’s time.


  10. The issue that goes beyond all of this tho is academic eligibility. These kids withdraw from school to train for the combine and so forth. The only way they could come back within 72 hours of the draft and maintain academic eligibility, assuming they didn’t sign with an agent, is they would have had to have been enrolled in spring semester and actually attending classes. Otherwise, there’d be no way to be academically eligible the next fall. So you’d have to get a waiver not only for scholarships, but also for academic progress, and that just ain’t happening.

    And if the kid tries to stay in school, it probably would torpedo his chances of being drafted anyway. NFL teams will look at it as the kid not being fully committed to the game, which is gonna make their draft stock fall. They’d create their own reality of likely not being drafted. So at that point, you’re better off just not declaring at all, and staying in school for another year.

    There’s just really not a good workaround within the framework.


  11. Pingback: So, players can return to school if they aren’t drafted by the NFL? | Riverbend Rundown

  12. PTC DAWG

    So which great scholars declared early this most recent draft and did not get picked where they thought they should? I’ll hang up and listen.