After another NFL draft that saw plenty of kids who left school early go undrafted, there have been plenty of questions about why there isn’t a path for them to return to college. I mean, no harm, no foul, right? Plus, if you hammer constantly that you’re all about helping student-athletes succeed academically…
Okay, let’s not get carried away here. And I digress.
Anyway, Andy Staples explains why that’s more difficult than it seems at first glance.
This year, 49 of 144 early entries to the NFL draft went unselected. I’d love to see a change that would allow those players to make more informed decisions and have an avenue to return to college. But it would require either a separate rule change independent of the draft rule and/or the willingness of college football coaches to manage their recruiting so that they leave roster spots open for players potentially returning to school.
On that last point,
For reasons both altruistic and selfish, college coaches don’t want their players to leave early and not get drafted. Most coaches want the best for their players, and most coaches would prefer to get a veteran starter back rather than break in a new player at that position.
But coaches also need to know what their scholarship count will be come August, and if they have players hanging out there in March—after both football signing days—unsure about whether they’ll return, then they could get caught in a crunch. The NCAA allows 85 scholarship players on an FBS team, and programs must be at or below the limit when practice begins. So a coach would have to leave scholarships open while signing his recruiting class with the idea that a spot or two could be filled by a player who removes his name from the draft.
I’m not unsympathetic to the numbers crunch there, although, as Staples notes, there are ways to minimize that risk by providing a brief period for kids to get better real-world feedback on their draft chances while not leaving coaches out on a limb for very long with potential roster management dilemmas.
Of course, if they really want to avoid the problem, there’s always coming up with more player compensation so that some of the kids don’t feel the need to leave early in the first place. I know, I know…