Maybe It's Time For the NFL Or the Government to Save College Sports

By Stephen Douglas
Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell / Handout/Getty Images
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College football has come to a crossroads with many possible paths, all of which are roads less traveled. Players have seized their opportunity to stand up to one of America's most powerful institutions and demands have been made. The PAC-12 started by asking for everything and now enough high-profile players from other Power Five conferences have gotten involved that they now have a movement that could reshape college football as we know it.

So what the hell is the NCAA supposed to do now? What do colleges do? What do these huge, money-making conferences do? One option is let these high-profile players walk away. College football fans are already locked in to watching an inferior product with lesser athletes, so losing stars should not hurt them. If Trevor Lawrence had left Clemson this winter, another recruit would be there waiting.

It appears that the NCAA is in denial that there is anything they can do besides protect the status quo. College football players playing for free is apparently so integral to amateur sports that if something happened to it, the entire system would collapse. So it's time to ask who benefits from college football and see if they can help.

Like the NFL, for instance. With this movement towards player empowerment the league could drop the age of eligibility and invest in a real farm system. Or, since the NFL has used college football as its feeder system for the better part of a century and it hasn't cost them a dime, maybe it's time they had some skin in the college game.

The NFL is rich. College football is rich. If they would admit they are intertwined and throw in some money together they could give college football players the support system they need to go out and put their health on the line every week in the fall and there would still be money left over to ensure that schools didn't have to cut sports that are actually not for profit. I mean, you would think, right?

Would it be possible for the NFL Players Association to become the American Football Players Association? Every NFL player came from the college football world. Would they be willing to help the players that won't join them? Maybe not.

Maybe the NFL and college football don't actually make any money. Maybe college football cannot survive unless the players are paid in room and board and a degree. And maybe that's not enough for the nation's top players. So if the NFL and college football aren't strong enough together to fix this problem, the government should step in. What's that? What does the government have to do with anything? Well, with football season (and no other fall sports, apparently) on the brink, politicians are stepping up to point out how important it is.

With so many rich entities having such a deep financial and societal interest in what happens to college football, you would think that they could all band together to figure this out. Perhaps with some financial assistance and some form of health care that would be universally available to everyone involved.

I really don't know. People smarter than me are going to have to figure this out. It just seems like there are answers to these problems that would involve spending some money earned off the backs of college football players to enrich the lives of those same players.

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