Should There Be a Semi-Pro Rival League to the NCAA in College Football For Players That Don't Want to Attend College?
Our Experts Discuss
- by Tim Tripp,
- Senior Analyst
College isn't for everyone. Many athletes at these big programs have no interest in academics and have no business being in college anyway as they aren't prepared to succeed coming out of high school. This past fall, a backup Ohio St. QB tweeted out, "Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS." The grammar speaks for itself and that sentiment is probably shared by many athletes. I could go on and on about all the issues with the NCAA, but why are schools giving scholarships as payments when 1. the athletes don't take advantage of it and 2. coaches pressure these kids to take easy majors, so they can focus the majority of time on football? It's also a concern that a lot of these athletes legitimately don't have enough time to get good grades.
That's why it would make sense for there to be a semi-pro league similar to the minor leagues in baseball, that gives them an opportunity to get paid right away to focus entirely on football. This would be a great solution to the never-ending debate of "should student-athletes get paid?" A big negative of having a semi-pro league would that it would dillute the quality of college football and by having two separate leagues the quality of play would go down. By how much though? If high school kids value their education and are confident they can get good grades while still succeeding at football (it can be done) they can play NCAA football , but if they feel football is the most important thing in their life, they have the opportunity to make a salary and don't have to worry about anything else, but their craft.
So what do you think? Do you feel it would be a good idea for a semi-pro league to be created? I'm not an expert on all the technicalities to make this happen, but I feel like it's a win-win for the most part.
@Tim Tripp In theory a Minor League for the NFL would be a great thing and they could play in the spring to fill that void after the Super Bowl.
Like you, I'm not sure how it would all work but if the NFL wanted it to happen they have the resources to make it happen. I also think it would be interesting to see just how fast some of these guys could develop if all they had to do was play football.
If there was a Minor League I would want to see the NFL do what Major League Baseball does with players coming out of High School. You can either enter the draft coming out of school but if you choose to go to college you have to go at least three years before you can enter the draft again.
@Robert Gardner The NFL definitely has the resources to make something like this happen, but the thing is the NFL doesn't have much incentive to create a minor league because they are getting a free one with the NCAA.
The Canadian Football League is an option for any player not wanting to go to college
@Tim Tripp You are right the NFL has no real reason to do this other than potential money a Minor League could make for them.
Unlike minor league baseball or the NBA D league minor league NFL would attract a lot of attention. We all know football is king in this country and if they did play in the spring I could easily see them getting sold TV money plus it would provide more programming for the NFL Network.
I think it could be a big money maker if the NFL were willing to put in the initial investment. It could also bring football to smaller markets like San Antonio, OKC and Portland. Fans support would be extremely high in my opinion.
In theory this sounds like a good idea. Players play, fans watch, owners collect revenue, but no, just no.
1. The physical difference between high school players and college/NFL players are vastly different. Players go to college to mature physically, opening a league like this, if we base it off of Minor League Baseball, would have it open to any age group. Leading to a lot of injuries.
2. The NFL would actually lose money doing this. If games are played after the Super Bowl, they are competing with the NBA, the NCAA(mainly March Maddness) and the NHL. Would sport fan in Miami rather watch a Heat game or a semi-pro Dolphins game?
The Canadian Football League is an option for any player not wanting to go to college. They don't have an age limit. But players will not get rich playing in the CFL: the minimum salary is $42,000 and the average salary is $82,500. Still, that's enough to live on until a player is old enough to be drafted into the NFL. That's actually a lot of money to an 18 year-old.
Of course, there would be pitfalls. How many 18 year-olds could handle moving to another country, handle their own finances, and face competition against adults? The college system helps these kids learn to be adults and gives them protection and comfort away from home. Nearly everything is done for them and they enjoy the camaraderie of other kids in the same situation. Is making a little money worth skipping out on "playing school"? Not for 98% of kids. Of the other 2%, only a a very small portion could handle being on their own in Canada. And once there, how would they show off their skills to the NFL? Most would ride the bench.
So, would a semi-pro league in the US be much better than the CFL? Nope. The same pitfalls would apply. A kid from Florida would experience the same problems whether he went to Winnipeg or Portland. And a semi-pro team would likely pay much less than a CFL team. Who is going to pay money to watch 18 and 19 year-old kids they've never heard of? The CFL has a strong, built-in fan base. A semi-pro league would not. As @Tim Tripp notes, the NFL isn't going to give away money to a minor league when they don't have to.
I would love a system that gave some kids a choice to skip college. I just can't imagine how such a system would work.
I'll keep it short and simple.
Do I think their should be a rival league? Absolutely not. As a student who played a club sport in college and busted my ass to earn my good grades from the University of Wisconsin, I value education even if athletes traditionally do not.
Do I think their WILL be a rival league? Probably. The argument about paying college athletes will not go away. (Although I must say, tuition, room and board, and meal stipends is still a pretty sweet deal for a college student...)
Players will support a rival league that pays them because they know they put their bodies at risk and they should be compensated for it.
Fair enough. But as a recent college grad I will never understand why anyone would want to pass up on that experience.
@Dean Lake makes a great point about the CFL. I would, however, counter that with the fact that baseball and basketball have developmental teams for their leagues and there are still foreign leagues that have the same potential to be drafted or traded and stuff like that as well as having the NCAA to develop players while still attending school. In fact, American football probably has less of an international presence due to the fact that most of their players come from the NCAA system. I think if you're going to have a developmental, foster team system for the NFL that rivals the NCAA, it needs to be in a different season as @Robert Gardner mentioned.
Summer or spring would work, but personally I would prefer a season that crosses over between the two. This way, as the basketball and hockey seasons come to a close, there is a secondary NCAA football league (although players are not going to school) that can pull attention away from baseball when the casual fan wants to spice up their summer vacation with football games.
My biggest issue with a semi-pro football league in the US is: how many student-athletes will it pull away because of the simple fact that they don't have to take classes anymore, but can be on the same path. Obviously there is incentive for a lot of players to get an education so that they have some way of making money post-career. But we also all know that there are a number of players who don't go to college classes as is, so would we lose some of these players to the semi-pro league and essentially give these student-athletes a way out? Right now they can do that by going to the CFL, but their résumés won't look as good to the average NFL GM who wants a college athlete. That is my biggest dilemma with a semi-pro system.
@Adam Bailey Kids shouldn't be forced to go to college if they aren't motivated to get an education at their particular point in life. Education is best anyway when the individual values it and they aren't doing it for any other reason besides themselves. They can always go back to college later on in life after football. They should have a way out besides the CFL if they want to focus on football. As far as their resumes, most athletes that have successful careers in the NFL don't finish their degrees while their in college anyway. I think GMs couldn't care less about anything other than are they going to be a good player and are they going to stay out of trouble.
@Dean Lake You make a good point on who would watch kids no one has ever heard of. The reason we watch college football is because their are established fan bases and tradition for each college. It would be tough for a semi-pro league to gain much of a following especially on TV. Similar to the minor leagues in baseball, people might go to the games to watch because it is still football, but there will be no real connection between the players and fans.
I think that came across wrong @Tim Tripp because I agree, no one should be forced to go to college. What I meant to portray is that the concern is how many players would rather play in that semi-pro league as opposed to college because they don't have to take college classes? Would the numbers be even enough that people wouldn't lose interest in NCAA or would it be lopsided? I personally have faith that it would be even enough to create competition among the leagues and coaches and GMs would do what they could in recruiting to flip some young people's opinions. It would be interesting definitely.
That's an interesting thought @Tim Tripp. From a players perspective it would be extremely beneficial for those athletes who choose majors like Sociology and Communications to go straight to a semi-pro league instead of squandering the money schools spend toward sports. Colleges spend way too much money on football to begin with. The money should be spread around much more to the entire student body so there are more resources and funding for science and math programs and even some for the arts. Semi-professional football is a out of the box idea and should be considered. It could help the entire country significantly.
Great topic! Regarding the season in which this 'minor rival league' would take place- why not have during the fall when football season is in progress. They could establish it similar to minor league baseball, potentially having double A and triple A leagues. Perhaps even NFL teams could call up players mid-season. But when I really get down and think about it, 18 years old in the NFL just doesn't seem like it would work.
I believe that a minor league could be a good idea, but it should not want players to join it just because they do not want to go to school. This could lead to immaturity and irresponsibility in players. The minor league also would not help develop players like college would. Young players need to grow and get bigger before they face NFL players.
Would a minor league football league really be able to compete with the NCAA? Alabama made $123,769,841 last year in profit alone, I'm not sure that minor leagues could necessarily compete with the already booming NCAA market. The only way that I could see a minor league system working is if perhaps NFL teams had farm teams like the NHL and AHL does. But then again that system wouldn't be very oriented towards young athletes who are looking to make it big because they would be playing in a men's league.
@Isaac Zimmern I wouldn't think a semi-pro league would need more than one level like minor league baseball. Football players don't need near the time to develop like baseball. You are right no 18-year-old would be able to make the jump, but the really good ones could make the jump in 2-4 years just like they do out of college. The biggest obstacle in my opinion to a semi-pro league is that the NFL has no incentive to start one up and if the NFL doesn't create it, the money likely won't be there to sell players from skipping out on college.
@Tim Tripp - Awesome topic. My viewpoint is I don't think there should be an easy way for young athletes to skip college to get to the NFL. The NFL, even though it doesn't seem evident due to all the arrests, strives to be as professional as possible and I'm assuming they don't want a bunch of uneducated and unprofessional people in the business because of all the different off-the-field activities the organizations require them to do. NCAAF gives athletes the opportunity to have a life after football by acquiring a degree.
Having experience interning with a semi-pro football team in Des Moines, Iowa who happens to be one of the best in the nation it's not an easy road for those players in terms of getting recognized by higher leagues like the AFL and the CFL. Those players are not paid and balance a full-time job to go along with practice and other responsibilities they have with the team. If the NFL was in charge of a semi-pro league then it may be a different story.
The point @Dean Lake made about trying to get fans to come to the game to watch "no-name" players was a terrific one. The UFL recently closed their season because of a lack of revenue and they had some past NFL players and even Jim Fassel was apart of the front office of one of the teams. Great thought but I don't believe it's a good idea.
@Tyler Olson To your first point on the NFL not wanting uneducated and unprofessional athletes, do you think that college for a lot of these guys is really that much of a maturing process? At the major programs, a lot of these athletes don't care much about their education and are coddled by the coaches. I would say an athlete playing in a potential semi-pro league could be more mature because they are living on their own and a lot of people are forced to grow up when that's the case. Some don't but I don't think college especially at SEC schools are really educating these guys. If they were we wouldn't be seeing all of these off-the-field problems in the NFL.
@Tim Tripp - I definitely think these university's are educating them and preparing them for the futre, yes. Some teachers don't care about their name they aren't going to just let players slide and most, or all university's have things like study tables for multiple hours a week do do homework and study. Some players, Shonn Greene for example, had to actually quit football in college to work at a furniture store to help himself reach his goal of the NFL and college was that route. There's no way there will ever be a bypass system to slide past the college level by implementing a semi-pro developmental league for the NFL. That's one of the reasons why the NFL doesn't let players declare until at least two years of playing time at the collegiate level.
@Tyler Olson I agree that the universities bend over backwards for these athletes with tutors and things like that. But in my opinion, the NFL requiring two years (3 years out of high school) in college doesn't have much to do with being educated in college. The percentage of players in the NFL that actually have a degree coming into the NFL has to be low. The NFL players who have a degree in general is below 50% (46% in 2004 according to the NFL). The NFL just wants their players mature on the field (and staying out of trouble with the law), that is it. The biggest obstacle for a semi-pro league would be how much support it would get and how much money the players would earn.
I've thought about this for a long time. Here are my rules for this.
1) You can't call it semi-pro because that exists and it's a joke
2) You don't want it to be associated with the NFL in any way and be called a minor league because that's a joke. People don't want to watch anything called "minor league".
3) You have to be a league that stands on it's own but only allow ages 18-22 to play in it. You have to get TV contracts. You have to promote your players to the fans and run a pro style offense to prepare them for the NFL. It has to be as big as the NCAA is in terms of promotion because you have to pay these players around 100K with benefits.
4) When the league first starts, you have to steal a big named NCAA player. You have to show the world that you mean business and that there is a demand by the players for a league like this.
"Who is going to pay money to watch 18 and 19 year-old kids they've never heard of?"
Apparently millions of people because the NCAA is doing very well for itself and that's exactly what happens there. You think they make all thier money from allumni? No way. They make their money because of people who live in the state the team is in watches "their team" on TV and buys "their team's" gear.
People want to watch to see good football and who the NFL superstars will be after they are done with this league. All that would matter with this league is that you get most of the great high school talent.
Also, who says these kids still can't go to school either after or during at a local college. I know plenty of adults who work full-time and still go to college. That would be an option to these players also.
"The UFL recently closed their season because of a lack of revenue and they had some past NFL players and even Jim Fassel was apart of the front office of one of the teams."
The UFL competed directly with the NFL. Obviously that won't work. This league wouldn't be competing with the NFL it would be getting the players ready for the NFL (there would have to be a max age limit of say 22/23). It would be competing with the NCAA. Money talks, and if the NCAA isn't going to pay their players and make tons of money from them then the players will go to where the money is.