College Vs. Pros: Should Athletes Leave School Early?

Jason Clary@IamJClaryCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell introduces Detroit Lions #1 draft pick Matthew Stafford at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

We see it every year.  Athletes that are still in college must choose between the risk of going professional in their sport, or risking injury for another year of ball. 

Athletes like O.J. Mayo and Michael Crabtree have been a few of the players that have put their education on hold to test their values in their respective sports.  Other athletes like Troy Smith and A.Q. Shipley have put education first, while still reaching the professional level in their sports.

Athletes have been successful through both of these decisions; however, some athletes have been left behind that chose the wrong path to professionalism.  You can take professionalism any way you want it, but in this case I refer to professionalism as the act of making a living in any field, whether that means being an athlete or working in a cubicle in your metropolitan broker’s office.

There are many points to both sides of the arguments and each has levied beneficial stories and opinions. Ultimately the decision is yours to what you think in this situation, but I can promise you that what you get from these next statements could persuade you to either side.

Leaving School for a Professional sport

1)       Allows great athletes to earn a living faster and provide for their families

Like it or not, the money that athletes get goes a long way towards the development of their families and themselves.

Good people find ways to do good things for society. These players could put the money back into their communities and give youths in their hometown the ability to play sports when it could have been previously impossible.

Giving money to people isn’t always a bad thing.

2)      Prevents the risk of injury in college

One of the main factors in college athletes choosing to leave early is the risk of injury.  Many athletes feel that if they stay in college they could get injured and put their professional career at risk.

If these athletes choose to leave early, they will get paid great money and there are benefits for players who get injured.  Although these benefits might not be as bountiful as a healthy athlete’s contract, it is a great way for a player to receive closure if anything were to happen that could question their future in the sport.

3)      Allows for studies after their career

Many of you can remember the expenses of college.  Athletes that do not get scholarships are put in a hole financially with loans gaining interest while they are trying to decide what to do with their lives.

Though many athletes do receive some amount of money from their college or university for sports, some do not receive this reward. Going professional would link the athlete to financial security and they could probably study just about anything they would want after their professional career.

Staying in College and receiving a Degree

1)      Secures the future of the athlete

Not everyone becomes a professional athlete. There are many people that make an honest living every day in careers that do not involve playing a sport.

For those fortunate enough to be the elite in their sport, receiving a degree before going pro is a way to tie the loose ends to their future.

Risk to injury is high in professional sports and if an athlete’s career would be in jeopardy, they would have something to fall back on. You can do many things in the work force with a college degree and this option is probably the safest decision to ensure a career in any field.

2)      Teaches maturity

Apart from the outlandish amounts of money professional athletes receive; some of this money is given to athletes barely in their 20’s. College kids are used to being broke. Its college. Everybody is broke.

Go from rags to riches too quickly and these athletes may not know what to do with their money.  Before you know it they could own a ten bedroom house on Miami Beach with a BMW and Ferrari in the garage.  You may say “what’s the big deal?” but both you and I know this is not how money should be spent.

Suppose an athlete spends one year in college and goes to the NBA. All of those first year or two classes aren’t completely useless. The athlete could take a financial accounting class in his second year that could teach him the proper way to invest his money.

Instead of that athlete spending half of his $3.5 million contract on a house and car they could invest away money to ensure a bright future for them and their family. At 19-or 20-years-old these athletes don’t need millions of dollars and if they do get it they should at least know what to do with it.

3)      Enhances knowledge

Most individuals go to college to gain the knowledge they need to make their way in the work force. This kind of knowledge will help anyone trying to find their calling in the work place.

Athletes have a gift physically and most have gifts intellectually as well. To make the most of their college experience would be to finish, graduate, and earn a degree.

Take Myron Rolle for example. Rolle was a gifted safety that played at Florida State from 2006 to 2009.  Rolle postponed his entry in the NFL Draft in 2009 to study over-seas at Oxford after he received the Rhodes Scholarship (only awarded to 32 people every year).

How many players can you think would postpone their entry into the NFL Draft to go to Oxford to attend more school? Rolle is a prime example of a true student-athlete and other athletes should take this example as they try to decide whether to leave early or stay and finish their studies.

The Final Prognosis

The fact is this: these players are student-athletes. Student comes before athlete. These players go to college for an education, not a draft pick.  Although some of these players do end up playing at the next level, the smartest decision they can make is to ensure their future by finishing school.


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