Outdated “quarters” rule could change

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Of all the dumb things the NFL does when it comes to tiptoeing around the free farm system that is college football, the absolute dumbest relates to the rule that prevents rookies who have been drafted and, in many cases, signed to contract from reporting for duty because educational institutions from which they’ve already withdrawn have yet to play Pomp and Circumstance.

That could be changing.

As explained by Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the American Football Coaches Association has engaged in “preliminary discussions” with the league about changing the rule. The AFCA, which successfully pushed for the adoption of the rule more than 20 years ago, could be willing to abandon the rule that keeps incoming players from participating in anything more than one rookie minicamp until final exams have concluded.

It’s a problem with schools that operate on the quarters system, where the educational process doesn’t end until June. And so players who left school to prepare for the draft can’t show up for work until after exams have concluded to cap classes they aren’t even taking.

The AFCA, whose members benefit financially from the free labor provided by college football players, should be doing whatever it can to allow players who have landed NFL jobs from showing up and working out with teams that are actually paying them to play football. Still, unless the AFCA is willing to look the other way, it’s unlikely the NFL will push for change.

The league, which failed to respond to an email from PFT with questions regarding the rule, remains fearful of alienating college coaches. Still, more influential voices within the league are speaking out against the rule. In addition to the remarks from Panthers coach Ron Rivera regarding the inability of running back Christian McCaffrey to join the team, 49ers G.M. John Lynch recently explained his own concerns about the rule in a visit to PFT Live.

“It was frustrating when I was in that situation and drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993,” Lynch (pictured in his Stanford uniform) said. “I think back to at the time I left school to become a minor league baseball player and pursue a professional baseball career. I was with the Florida Marlins. I wasn’t even in school, we were on the quarters system. I went to the first quarter and then was off playing in the Midwest League, and I couldn’t go to [football] practice. It was frustrating then, it’s frustrating now. It seems like there’s a better way of doing it. I understand the intent. You don’t want guys dropping out of school so that they can go to practice. I do think that there’s a way around it. Hopefully, we can all get together and figure out a way to make it a little more sensible.”

Saying that he wants to figure out a way to make it “a little more sensible” implies that the rule is at least a little sensible. It’s not. At all.

8 responses to “Outdated “quarters” rule could change

  1. If I were a recruit with NFL aspirations, I wouldn’t go to a school on the quarter system. This rule doesn’t hurt Christian McCaffrey that much, but a 7th-round pick who can’t participate in OTAs is really behind the eight ball.

  2. The idea was so that the kids would still finish their year and graduate, not drop out for the final weeks. Believe it or not the NFL actually did have a rule that was for the best interests of the prospect. The idea is to make sure they were best prepared for a life in which football didn’t work out for them, something that does happen for most. The irony is that the late round pick that needs to get into camp early to fight for a job is the one that needs that back up plan more that the first round guy. The problem here is these guys are focused on football and at that point in time they see the need to finish out their schooling as an annoying disadvantage.

    I think the requirement to finish their education should remain in place but I wonder if a way could be worked out to allow them to do that while attending camp. They really need both things. (Education and camp)

  3. How about getting rid of the outdated rules where college players who go undrafted can’t return to their college team for more seasoning.

  4. The rule needs to be revised …

    a player can leave school and work at Burger King, but not attend professional football practices?

    Sum-Ting-Wong here ….

  5. I see both sides of this. I think the rule is fine for those that are still enrolled in school. McCaffrey, having long since made his decision to go pro, did not even enroll at Stanford for the winter or spring quarters. When a guy is not enrolled in school, telling him he can’t play pro ball until his school ends its quarter is the dumbest thing imaginable.

    Very simple – if the player is enrolled in school, he forgoes practice until the quarter ends in June. If he’s not enrolled, no restrictions on practice.

    You’re welcome.

  6. The outdated rule is that a player cant return to college football if theyre not drafted or kept on a team!

    Why wouldnt the nfl want to encorage that?

    And just like someone else said, this rule has value to those players on the fringe…..they NEED to complete their college. But nope, with this change, trams will now pressure 7th rounders and undrafted players to attend camp rather than finish their tests/graduate.

    Thats the thing that liberals like florio overlook…the value of the education. They also think players should be paid bc they recieve “nothing” in return…..again, completely discounting the FREE education from the greatest colleges in the country.

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