USC-Notre Dame Week: Isn't It Time for Semi-pro Football?

Michael CollinsAnalyst INovember 23, 2010

Reggie Bush accepting the Heisman
Reggie Bush accepting the HeismanStephen Chernin/Getty Images

NCAA football isn't what it used to be, though maybe it never was.  Agents lurking around programs, boosters funneling monies, players getting paid and proponents wanting players to get a piece of any bowl largesse for a university are just some of the issues.

Why not pay players?  Just create a semi-pro league for them to do so.

Manti Te'o signs Letter of Intent to Notre Dame over USC and UCLA
Manti Te'o signs Letter of Intent to Notre Dame over USC and UCLA

As of now, we disregard some parents' and players' wishes and behaviors by limiting avenues of advancement.  They can only get to the NFL through college football.  For too long, the NCAA and its member universities have been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole by limiting players' and coaches' behaviors with rules on practice times, proscribed contacts and benefits, and eligibility.  

Then, those players who look at college as time spent before they are eligible to be drafted to the NFL disregard the rules.  More than half of players in the NFL do not have college degrees anyway.

Rather than spend time wondering who on an opponent's team is getting under-the-table benefits or worrying how to police players effectively, why not let them and their parents decide which road is more important—a college education or quick money with a chance at the NFL sooner.

For almost all students at a university, a college degree is the best and fastest way to advance in their chosen field.  Using the NCAA's term "scholar-athlete" for the Bushes, Mayos, Newtons, Claretts, et al, is downright painful.

Think of the advantages of providing choices between college football and a semi-pro league:

—Recruits and their families could decide what's best for them.  Some will choose education at a top school.

—Players who feel they should get a share of money they generate and want to get paid right out of high school could do so.

—Less headaches for the universities.  Colleges could watch as some players, agents, boosters and some coaches migrate to pro leagues.

—Without those players who do not care about a university's compliance, infractions and the degree of infractions would decrease.

—Systems that sprung up to admit marginally qualified students, to keep players grades up or to provide them with easy, worthless degrees would disappear.

—Those players who don't make in the semi-pro leagues could apply for college and, like other students, have to meet minimum standards.  They would fund their education either by paying for it from their semi-pro income or getting need-based loans and scholarships.  Of course, they would not have any NCAA eligibility.

Compare USC and Notre Dame, for instance.  USC is ranked as 23rd and Notre Dame is ranked 19th by US News and World Report as academic institutions.  USC's overall student graduation rate is 88 percent within six years, but its football players have only a 57 percent graduation rate—a 31 percent difference. 

Notre Dame's overall graduation rate for students in six years is 95 percent while football players graduate at 94 percent.  I can't help but think that a semi-pro league would certainly benefit the fine University of Southern California with their recent history of NCAA infractions.

We should expect some resistance to this proposal from some who are vested in the status quo of trying to evade NCAA infractions with players who expect privileges and minimal challenges in their college education.  Entrenched habits are hard to kick.  But, in the end, I believe my suggestion will prevail.

Then again, I believe we should invite only the best ten teams in college football to BCS bowls regardless of conference affiliation.  Call me crazy.

What do you think?


Other articles of interest:

Top Grades and No Class Time for Auburn Players (2006)

Auburn clears athletic officials of grade wrongdoing (2006)

Have you seen "More Auburn Stuff" under our Hot Forum Topics?  (We regard these as allegations only and ask everyone to use their best judgments for validity.)


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