College Sports: An Open Letter to All Athletes Considering the Pro Ranks

Derek HartCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2011

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

To All Juniors Playing Football and Basketball Players:

This is the time of year when you all have a major decision to make: Whether to pass up your remaining eligibility to go pro or to stay in school and get your degree.

Some of you have already decided to enter the NFL draft as of this writing...

2009 Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram, Arkansas' super quarterback Ryan Mallett, Wisconsin's defensive line stud J.J. Watt, and Rahim Moore and Akeem Ayers of UCLA have all announced their intention to seek their fortunes in the league.

Ditto with the winners of the Heisman Trophy and the Outland Trophy, Cam Newton and Nick Fairley(respectively) of the newly-crowned national champion Auburn Tigers

In a normal situation, I would not begrudge these players, with more to come to be sure. If you're in a situation where you can make $20 or $30 million with a stroke of a pen, you can't turn down that opportunity.

As Ingram, Mallett and the other guys mentioned are projected first-round picks, I could understand them leaving school.

This is not a normal situation, however.

I have three words to say to all those football and basketball athletes who choose to dump school to go pro this year:


Here's why...

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the players in the NFL and the NBA expires this year, and the owners fully intend to launch a labor war.

They are demanding significant revenue concessions from the players' union in both sports, among other things, which will be considered by the union as unfair and most unreasonable.

The likelihood of an NFL lockout in 2011 is very good, and an NBA lockout in 2011-12 is more or less a certainty.

Which means that those players who turn pro early will be sitting around idle with no football or basketball to play.

And for those multi-millions going toward helping their families—a common reason for leaving college before their time—if and when there is a lockout, the owners won't be paying a single red penny.

As for bonuses, I wouldn't count on those 100 percent, either; why should owners who are crying that they're losing money pay $15 million to someone who has done nothing at the professional level?

So there's a good chance that Ingram, Mallett and the rest of the early jumpers will be spending at least part of next season, if not all of it, sitting around at home and NOT getting paid.

Unless they opt for the UFL, of course.

Ditto with any of you NCAA hoopsters who declare for the NBA draft early.

Andrew Luck, a redshirt sophomore quarterback who finished second in this year's Heisman voting, is a smart young man; being from Stanford, that's no surprise.

Despite the fact that he was projected to be the top overall pick, Luck announced that he was remaining in school for the 2011 to finish his degree, but I'm sure it's also because there may not be an NFL season.

By staying at Stanford, he's guaranteeing that he will play.

With the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement in football and basketball, I feel that going pro early is a mistake this year, for these two basic reasons:

1.  There may not be a season for you to play in; you may well end up sitting out all of 2011, and...

2.  If there is a lockout, you won't be getting paid.

That's about the gist of it, and that's why you should stay in school, at least until the owners and players agree to a new labor contract.

Please take this into consideration as you decide your futures.


A long-time college sports fan