-A Way too Long of a Rant by John Turner
So… there’s Marcus Lattimore. Most of us remember him right? He was the NCAA freshman of the year under Ol ball coach Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. Then the injuries came. He bounced back from the early ones but in the game against Tennessee in his junior year he was injured to a degree irreparable.
He was drafted by the 49ers anyway in the 4th round. After a full season of sitting out, realizing he could never overcome his injury, he retired during training camp of his second season before ever playing a down in the NFL. He’s since picked up work as a coach in high school and recently joined SC as the director of player development. I’m happy for him yet sad his pro career never had a chance to develop.
Here’s the part that gets tricky. Many people hate the idea that the XFL is going to be in business without the same age restrictions that the NFL has in place(under the current collective bargaining agreement). People and of course the media,(I thought about this as I watched ESPN argue these points on PTI and Around the Horn yesterday) argue, “Why would Trevor Lawrence risk playing in a second rate league where he could get hurt and ruin his chance of making money in the NFL?” My argument will probably be… Marcus Lattimore. He played at a high-level for free in college albeit on a scholarship while receiving a free education. Many will argue that their education is pay enough. However I’ve met a lot of unemployed people with college degrees. Especially in the present day and ever fluctuating economic climate.
So why not play in the XFL and make some money. Yes you are running the risk of getting injured by playing against older players for the most part, but you could very well be injured in college just as easy by a guy your own age. If it weren’t for college injuries we know Johnny Utah would’ve been one of the greatest of all time right? Instead he resorted to playing cops and robbers while “catching a couple of fun ones” on the side($1 to anyone that knows the fun ones reference).
Will the NFL do something to combat players leaving college early to go play in the XFL? I personally wouldn’t put it past them. I think the NFL will work in something on the new CBA that states, if a player leaves college early to play in a professional league then by the time he is draft age eligible he won’t be eligible for the actual NFL college draft. Meaning said player can only be signed on as an UFA(undrafted free agent), thus making him ineligible for the NFL rookie draft pay scale. But that’s actually another story for another time.
The NFL doesn’t like taking care of its retired veterans let alone guys without a lot of tenure. This is evident by former players lawsuits against the league this past 20 years and an ever evolving compensation plan that seems to continue to fall short of what’s needed. The NCAA doesn’t legally pay its players that play nor do they those that get hurt. But perhaps they should…
Maybe the NCAA should look into compensation packages and job placement for players like Lattimore. Maybe they should be paying players and or “student athletes” accordingly. Although we’ve seen people milk injuries for a payday before in the workplace and the military so it’s a slippery slope indeed. Perhaps the XFL is the greatest thing to happen to NCAA. It might make that transfer portal a lot less active that’s for sure.
The transfer portal is typically used for a player who is looking for more playing time on the field and for whatever reason isn’t getting it. Or, it’s because perhaps the coach that recruits him is now gone and the new scheme doesn’t fit him anymore. There’s also times where a player becomes academically ineligible at one school or loses his scholarship there but another school is willing to pick up the tab. What if that player decides to go play in the XFL instead of transferring? What if Marcus Lattimore, who probably could’ve played pro after his freshman year decided to play in the XFL? He might very well still be playing today.
The NFL while in business will likely continue to get the best of the best. College will always get the best 17-20 year olds out there and many will stay 4 years, all while the schools pretty much make money hand over fist by not paying players regardless of how you feel about what a scholarship is in terms of compensation. NCAA also takes in hundreds of millions of dollars in TV deals and other means of revenue off of the player’s likenesses.
So the XFL isn’t some evil company stealing players from their education, opportunity to play at the highest level in the NFL, nor are they impacting the college game much since they will only have roughly 500 players in the league in its inaugural season and for the foreseeable future. It’s a business that’s offering pretty good money to men to play football. And if you’re old enough to go to war and take a bullet, you’re old enough to play football for money.