College football is coming off one if its most successful and exciting seasons in recent memory. While it may be hard to fathom this great tradition coming to an end, there are definitely some uncertainties revolving around the NCAA and college football.
As the single most profitable sport at the collegiate level, there are hundreds of thousands of individuals who would fight to keep America's sport at universities. Unfortunately, there is an underlying theme that has surfaced in recent years and really taken a stranglehold on the sport in the past months—risk vs. reward.
How much longer are young men going to be willing to risk their bodies for nothing? How much longer will they risk their futures for no guaranteed return on investment?
Now, don't get me wrong, college football players get a free education for every hit they take, but they could achieve the same tutelage from playing a musical instrument or excelling in their studies. But to be perfectly honest, if an athlete's end goal is to play professional football, how does a college degree help that?
The only answer to this uncertainty revolving around the NCAA is for the NFL to create a developmental league.
With the recent death of Junior Seau and the lawsuit of over 2,000 former players regarding concussions in the forefront of everyone's mind, young players entering college need to decide whether the risk of this potential long-term damage is worth the reward of playing college football with the small chance of possibly making it into the NFL.
However, if the NFL was to create a developmental league that would provide potential players the opportunity to forgo college, make a living and still give them the opportunity to make it into the NFL, the league could withstand a potential crumbling of the NCAA.
Unlike college basketball, where 18-year-old kids are physically ready to play in the NBA, the NFL is too violent and aggressive of a sport for an individual who hasn't yet fully developed mentally or physically. There is no doubt that a player fresh out of high school needs time before entering the league, but rather than him risking that time in the NCAA for nothing, the NFL should provide him the means to do that through a developmental league.
Could there still be college football if the NCAA was able to sustain its future? Of course. Just look at college basketball and college baseball as examples.
What a developmental league for the NFL would do is allow players who either don't care about a college education, or need more time to develop their talents and an organized professional community to do just that.
This league would also allow teams to see what players are capable of before committing millions upon millions of dollars on them. Much like the minor league system for baseball or the D-League for basketball, a developmental league for the NFL would give players time to adjust to the demands and expectations of a professional sport.
The biggest benefit to the NFL of a developmental league is that it sustains its future. With a league where players can learn and grow, the uncertainty of college football is no longer an issue for the most powerful sport in America.
While this uncertainty may only be in the infant stages in the NCAA, it is bound to grow as college athletes remain unpaid and serious injuries continue to happen on the field that have effects that last long after a player is done with the sport.
This isn't an idea that will happen overnight, but it is certainly an idea that is at least in the minds of the decision makers in the NFL. In a recent article by Len Pasquarelli on Yahoo! Sports, Roger Goodell is quoted asking, "Should we have some sort of developmental league?" during spring meetings.
With the uncertainty surrounding the NFL, the answer to Mr. Goodell's question seems like a rather easy one: absolutely.