The announcement by University of Oregon junior quarterback Darron Thomas to declare for the 2012 NFL draft caught many by surprise – except for maybe those who are close to him – and not only does it surprise me, it baffles me, too.
I can grudgingly admit that LaMichael James’ decision to forgo his final year of eligibility is smarter in the long run, because he has the football world drooling after his skill set as a possible third-down running back. But not Thomas’ decision.
Thomas is good, but he’s not NFL good, not as a quarterback. He’s good because he is the quarterback on Chip Kelly’s high profile offense, not due to his skill set.
His possible replacement for next year, red-shirt sophomore Bryan Bennett, has a higher accuracy rating and is quite possibly faster in the 40.
It looks to me like he is leaving because he isn’t guaranteed playing time with such a quality replacement gaining in maturity; and his friends, James and Cliff Harris, are also leaving for the NFL.
I’m not a fan of players leaving college early to become professionals anyway, and when someone goes before they’re ready, it’s even worse.
My friends argue that college players have to take the paycheck when they can. They can’t afford to wait because an injury could sideline any chances they might have for a professional career if they waited one year to finish college.
I think that, in order to form a more perfect society, all professional athletes who choose to attend college should be required to complete a four-year degree.
What might have happened if Michael Vick had graduated from Virginia Tech instead of leaving after his sophomore year?
Understandably, he may not have set history as the first African American to be selected number one overall in the 2001 NFL draft – those honors may have gone to LaDainian Thomlinson – but, he may also have not been charged with, and convicted of, illegal dog fighting.
Maybe one of the required classes his junior year would have been an ethics class that would have helped him to realize that forcing animals to fight for the sport of their human owners is bad.
Maybe not, but there is no way to know, is there?
There is no other profession that I’ve heard of where you can be paid more for dropping out of school before you’ve graduated. Think if your surgeon dropped out of med school because he was really good at suturing and a hospital wanted to pay him millions to come be its star human sewing machine.
Sure, the visibility of your scars will be reduced, but when your heart fails from complications during surgery, Dr. Dropout won’t be able to reboot your ticker because he missed that class his final unattended year of college.
I understand that there is more risk inherent in playing for a longer amount of time at the college level and not having a “show me the money” moment, but maybe the rules regarding payment for college athletes could be changed.
Maybe a college athlete could declare their intent at the beginning of their final year.
The team with the first round draft pick could make a conditional offer to draft the player and place an amount not to exceed 10 percent of the first year’s salary in a trust fund.
The money then becomes available to the player upon his graduation from college – regardless of whether they are able to play for the professional team. If the player is able to play and chooses not to, then they lose the money.
Of course, the professional team could also offer bonuses based on whether the person is named a Heisman winner, or awarded any other number of college honors, including graduating magna cum laude or summa cum laude.
Another way to force athletes to stay in college is to only allow the Heisman, and other sporting awards, to be given to students who are in their final year of eligibility.
Football – and other professional sports – are much too focused on the sport, and not the people who make up the sport, and it shows.
There are not many jobs for professional athletes in their sport after they are done playing. A few talented players go on to be coaches, and even fewer go on to become owners, but most of them have to figure out what to do with their lives after the professional career goes down the pipes.
And, while I realize that there is the ability to return to school after going pro, I feel that a large number of athletes only go to college because it allows them to progress in their sport.
Will Thomas make the NFL? If he does, it won’t be until the final rounds of the draft. Will he return to college to get his diploma? Maybe.
Will athletes ever stop leaving college early to buy their tickets on the money train called professional sports?