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Terrelle Pryor vs. Rodger Goodell: Why Pryor's Suspension Hurts the NFL

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Terrelle Pryor vs. Rodger Goodell: Why Pryor's Suspension Hurts the NFL
NEW YORK - JULY 27: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions from the media after reinstating Michael Vick on a conditional basis on July 27, 2009 at the InterContinental Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I've generally been a supporter of Rodger Goodell's attempts to maintain the image of the NFL as a professional business organization. 

I've approved of many of his sometimes-harsh suspensions and punishments for questionable off-the-field behavior because they made good business sense. An embarrassing scandal involving an NFL player that winds up as a dropped court case still produces a lot of bad PR for the league itself, and should serve as grounds for disciplinary action.

We see the same thing time and time again in the corporate world: the perception of being guilty is usually as damaging to a professional organization as a guilty verdict. As I said above: the NFL is a business. When that business is a $9-billion-plus per year one, the stakes are much higher. The cost of bad PR is higher. And the punishments for bad PR must be higher. 

As I said, I generally agree with Goodell because I understand his point of view. 

However, there is (at least) one thing almost every successful business, large or small, does not do: over-reach onto a sinking ship. The business of the poorly-run NCAA is not the concern of Rodger Goodell, the NFL Owners, or the NFLPA.

I'm not going to pretend that the NCAA is a well-meaning organization—they aren't. They exploit young athletes to rake in billions of dollars in TV and advertising profits. They selectively enforce eligibility and compliance rules to ensure marquee match-ups don't lose their luster (2010 Sugar Bowl, anyone?). Their enforcement body is a joke, and a bad one at that.

Public opinion has sharply turned against them over the past five years and isn't likely to shift gears anytime soon. The NCAA's ship is sinking faster than the Titanic.

Should Rodger Goodell Have Suspended Terrelle Pryor

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Again, the NFL is a business and Rodger Goodell is a businessman. His primary objective throughout his tenure has been to protect the image and the profits of the league. It may have taken different forms over the years, but the common denominator has always been the profitability and marketability of the league.

That all changed when Goodell put his hands (and his two cents) into a toxic pool: the business of the NCAA. This issue isn't about Terrelle Pryor and his third-rate talent; this is about a commissioner with a pristine image throwing in his lot with a sinking organization.

The smart play for Goodell here would have been to accept Pryor into the supplemental draft, say the business of the NCAA is the business of the NCAA, and move right along. 

Instead, this ruling has set a terrible precedent—one that seems to indicate the rulings of the NCAA's broken judicial system are binding on the NFL through the Player Conduct Policy.

This ruling raises many more questions: what is the statute of limitations on NCAA infractions? One year? Two years? Ten years? Can Reggie Bush be suspended next season if the NCAA comes down with a ruling? What about a #1 overall pick who is later found to have breached NCAA rules? Is he suspension eligible? On what grounds? 

While I understand Goodell's desire to protect the image of the NFL, this is not the way to do it. Lending the NCAA a portion of the NFL's credibility is not a wise move from a business standpoint. This is an over-reach into a toxic pot—a move any executive worth his salt knows is a poor decision.

Again, no one cares about Terrelle Pryor. I'd be shocked if he's still playing in the NFL in three years. This is about Rodger Goodell over-reaching and over-stepping, and in the process tainting the image of the NFL by throwing in his lot with the dysfunctional and wildly unpopular NCAA.

College Football is broken and in need of a complete overhaul. The NFL should not be in the business of lending them a crutch. 

Rodger Goodell should have said the business of the NCAA is not the concern of the NFL. Instead, he opened both himself and the league up to harsh criticism, scrutiny and bad PR.

He now needs to do what is necessary to rectify his mistake and ensure his ruling is overturned. He needs to take his hands out of the toxic pot that is the NCAA, wash them clean and return them to where they belong: in the business of the NFL.  

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