Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck made the right decision to stay in college instead of entering the 2011 NFL Draft.
I don't think there was ever much doubt in Luck's mind that he was going to stay at Stanford. About two weeks ago, a source close to Luck said that if he had to make up his mind that day, he wouldn't leave school.
The night after Stanford's bowl game with Virginia Tech, Luck talked with his parents about going pro or staying in college. The next morning, it was announced he would stay at Stanford. He didn't need to think long or hard about this. He was 99 percent sure of what he wanted to do going into the serious talk about his future and nothing changed.
Some have berated Luck for his decision because they are upset that the Carolina Panthers likely will not get the next Peyton Manning after all. Others have called him crazy for leaving so much money on the table instead of staying on course to—gasp!—finish his degree in architectural design. He has also been called stupid and foolish for taking a chance on jeopardizing his future NFL career by losing draft stock in his final year or two at Stanford or getting hurt and never cashing in.
As a Panthers fan, I'm disappointed that he will turn out to be a bit of a Peyton Manning 2.0—and not just because of his football, and leadership, skills. But I am still steadfast in my opinion that he made the right decision.
Luck's father, Oliver, says the decision was based purely on "staying in a place he loves, playing beside teammates he adores and getting the degree he covets." Perhaps, I can relate to Luck better than some because I have the perspective of a 19-year-old high school senior that wants nothing more than to be in college right now instead of high school.
Being a senior in high school is not a horrible experience by any means, but right now, if I could be anywhere I wanted, I would be a second-semester freshman in college. Maybe a lot of high school seniors say that, but I am in my 14th consecutive year at the same independent private school. I have gone to school with more or less the same people for that entire time. I am ready to change schools, take some new classes, meet new people, and leave home. So when Andrew Luck announced he wanted to stay at school instead of going pro, I totally understood how he felt. I wouldn't want to leave school either.
On another note, even though the current NFL Collective Bargaining situation reported influenced Luck's decision very little, it is still a major issue worth examining in the context of Luck's decision. A major crticism of Luck is that he will lose tens of millions of dollars for not turning pro.
On the surface, that is almost guaranteed to be true even if his draft stock doesn't go down at all, and he doesn't get hurt playing for Stanford next year or the year after that because the new CBA realistically has to have a rookie payscale, which would result in Luck receiving a significantly smaller salary than the one he would have gotten had he gone pro this year.
But a closer analysis of the broad financial picture reveals that Luck made a sensible decision that very few big-time college athletes are capable of making. Assuming Luck gets his architectural design degree, he will still be set up to make good money regardless of what happens to his football career.
If something bad happens, he has a college degree to fall back on. If he plays for 20 years and makes more money than most of us will see in our lives, then he will have options for a real job beyond football if he wants to leave. Most former players who don't want to coach or don't make good coaches and don't have enough education, end up on the street because they spend too much money during their playing careers. By getting a degree, Luck assures himself that he will not share that future.
Andrew Luck has the right ideas of how to build a successful future. The rest of the world of big-time college athletics should take notice. And his critics should think twice before saying anything.