Nick Bosa's Decision Signals It's Time to Finally Pay College Football Players

Matt Hayes@matthayescfbSenior National College Football WriterOctober 16, 2018

Ohio State star defensive lineman Nick Bosa is withdrawing from school to begin preparing for the NFL draft.
Ohio State star defensive lineman Nick Bosa is withdrawing from school to begin preparing for the NFL draft.Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

We can no longer ignore the obvious. No longer witness life-altering moments and avoid doing the right thing.

It's time to pay college football players.

"We put our career, our life, on the line every snap we play," Kentucky tailback Benny Snell Jr. told me last week.

And it's time we start listening.

To Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, who Tuesday decided it wasn't worth trying to return to the field this season from a torn muscle, instead leaving school to focus on preparing for the NFL draft.

To former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who last year told me a majority of players leave early for the NFL not because they think they'll be first-round picks, but because they want to get paid before injuries ruin the very thing that allows them to earn.

And finally, to Arizona president Robert Robbins, who told me this spring that, yes, he's all for a serious conversation about paying players. Not some stuffed-shirt, sound-bite sitdown where everything looks good in front of cameras.

But real, significant change.

"I'd be open to any ideas," Robbins said. "I certainly would not say, 'Never should we pay the players.' I want to make it fair. I would be a strong advocate for sitting down and beginning an open dialogue."

Not a $5,000 stipend, not full cost of attendance, not sparkling, over-the-top facilities built for players, present and future. Something tangible and substantial.

It's time for those who cash those bloated checks from all that television money, who sink untold millions into facilities so extravagant and so unnecessary it defies logic (see: waterfalls, slides, barbershops, bowling alleys), to put that money to better use.

For those who earn it.

"I probably shouldn't say anything about it because it's not appropriate while I'm in college," says West Virginia star quarterback Will Grier. "But, yeah, I think everyone realizes there's a lot more going on here than going to class."

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier
West Virginia quarterback Will GrierJohn Weast/Getty Images

Translation: Players are the reason huge stadiums are full on fall Saturdays.

Players are the reason for millions upon millions earned from ticket revenue, television contracts, apparel and the ever-changing and wildly popular postseason, where teams will play as many as 15 games in a season. A postseason that eventually will grow to more teams and more television money.

Players are the reason Nike and Adidas and Under Armour throw millions upon millions at universities to sponsor their apparel. If those apparel giants were only allowed to use one number—say, the number of the current year, or "18"—sales would be stagnant.

They can use any numbers, and—tada—they just happen to be the numbers of the most popular players year after year.

Bob Stoops told me years ago that he once sat down Sam Bradford and told him fans flock to the stadium to watch Oklahoma play football. It doesn't matter who's wearing No. 14; not Bradford then, not Josh Heupel years earlier and not anyone who will wear it in the future.

Players change, he said. Universities are around for the long haul.

That flawed logic fails to recognize one vital constant: Players make the program, not the other way around. No matter the year, no matter the player.

So when Nick Bosa decides it's fiscally responsible to leave Ohio State after a significant injury because he doesn't want to do more damage that could cost him down the line; or when player after player leaves college football early at increasingly alarming rates—a record 123 underclassmen in the 2018 NFL draft, 37 of whom went undrafted—do we continue to ignore the dangerous trend?

OSU's Nick Bosa suffered a core injury against TCU on Sept. 15.
OSU's Nick Bosa suffered a core injury against TCU on Sept. 15.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

If the goal is to educate players and get them ready for professional football, why not make it worth their while to stay in college? Make the reward worth the risk of potential debilitating health problems.

It could be as simple as a standard salary for all players or giving players the ability to use their names, images and likenesses (which the NCAA currently is fighting with all its legal gusto to prevent). Or here's a wild idea: both.

Here's another false premise: the laughable idea that if you pay football players, you have to pay every student-athlete. Football players drive the monetary engine in college sports, not tennis players.

"We're winning games now and the stadium is packed and everybody's happy," Snell said. "Why do you think that's happening?"

Two years ago I was at Steve Clarkson's quarterback camp when a tall, slender high school junior was throwing ropes in pass drills. It was so impressive that a sports agent at the camp sidled up to me and said he hadn't seen a high school quarterback throw like that since John Elway.

That player's name: Trevor Lawrence.

A few weeks ago, Lawrence was named the starter at Clemson, a tough decision for Tigers coach Dabo Swinney but one that was earned—and one that pushed another player (Kelly Bryant) to leave school in search of one final season with a team to call his own.

In his first game as Clemson's starter, Lawrence rolled left and scrambled before getting tackled and sustaining a significant blow to his head. Two quarters into his career as the Clemson starter, a once-in-a-program player lay motionless on the turf.

Not 10 minutes later, I received a text from that same sports agent: "His clock has officially started."

In other words, your body can only take so much pounding.

Why should it take that abuse for the monetary gain of others?

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