Jim Harbaugh made some waves in the college football world today when he put down his playbook, picked up the pen, and wrote a letter proposing college football players should be able to declare for the NFL draft whenever they like. If they go undrafted, they should be given the option to return to school. Adam Schefter has the details below:
Most of his ideas won't face opposition from me. Allow players to consult agents on potential draft status before losing eligibility? Great. Giving the players the right to return to the academic institution they're leaving to finish their degree at any time? Even better. Five years of eligibility without a redshirt clause? Sweet. A one-time transfer that allows players to play the next year immediately without having to apply for a waiver? More power to you, Jim.
But, unlike basketball, baseball, and hockey, there is a good reason that prospects must have three years of eligibility under their belt before they can go pro. Football is, as you've heard, a violent game. Extremely so. While I'm no doctor, I believe it's proven that the human body changes significantly from the ages of 18-22. The weight I put on my freshman year of college can attest to that much. Prospects need that time to allow their bodies to mature enough to play football at the professional level.
I don't like the NCAA any more than the rest of you. Student-athletes making millions of dollars for the organization and the institutions that make it up without compensation is a problem in many respects. But preventing freshmen and sophomores from entering the NFL Draft isn't just the NCAA wanting to hang on to their assets as long as possible. It's a safety issue.
Frankly, it doesn't really matter if a prospect "feels" like they're ready to go pro. For every freak of nature like Jadeveon Clowney who probably could have played with the big boys at the ripe age of 19, there are literally hundreds of more players who need an extra year or two of growth and weight training before their bodies can handle the physical punishment of professional football.
Not to be too morbid about it, but if there was ever a way to increase the likelihood of a player dying on the field, this is it. The dangers of football have been shouted from the rooftops for a decade now. Player empowerment is very important at the college level, and a lot needs to change in that regard. But not this.