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NFL tries to defend indefensible quarters rule

AP

The NFL’s effort to tiptoe around the proprietors of its free farm system knows no limits.

In response to a renewed assault on the rule that keeps players from colleges that operate on a quarters system away from most if not all of the offseason program due to the timing of final exams in classes players aren’t taking, the league has attempted to defend the rule and/or minimize its impact.

After posting on Twitter a link to the PFT story regarding the complaints about the rule, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent ran a link to the league’s explanation of the so-called “May 16 Rule.” Here’s the language of the rule:

1. “Players who attend schools with final examinations that conclude prior to May 16 may fully participate in any activities (i.e., tryout, physical examination, three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp, or RFDP) at a club’s facility beginning May 15.”

2. “Players who attend schools with final examinations that conclude after May 16 may not participate in any activities other than the three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp until after the player’s final day of examinations.”

3. “Players who have withdrawn from school may not attend any club activity (other than the three-day post-Draft Rookie minicamp) or be visited at his campus or residence, or any other location, by any club personnel or club representative if final examinations have yet to conclude at the school. This includes drafted players, any undrafted players that have signed as free agents, and any undrafted players that have not signed.”

The league explains that the rule “is an NFL effort to make sure that drafted rookies who have yet to graduate can finish their college educations without pressure to drop out to join their new NFL club.” The league also notes that the rule was adopted in 1990 because players were indeed leaving school after being drafted.

“Graduation rates were very important to colleges then, as they are now,” the NFL explains. “When drafted players dropped out without graduating, it created an issue for the colleges. The American Football Coaches Association — an association of football coaches and staff on all levels — reacted by locking pro scouts off of college campuses.”

There’s a serious problem with that logic, in light of current circumstances. Given the importance of the pre-draft process, players no longer drop out of college to join their NFL teams after being drafted. They drop out of college after their eligibility expires. As a result, players who left school months ago can’t participate in offseason workouts because of a rule that has no relevance to them because they aren’t taking exams at all.

The league justifies the rule in part by arguing that, “[i]f dropouts were allowed to report to their clubs early, the student-athletes who remain in school would be put in a competitive disadvantage. . . . They could face pressure from clubs and their fans to participate in offseason activities.”

That competitive disadvantage (if there truly was one) still exists for players who choose one of the six schools where the rule currently applies: Washington, Northwestern, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA. While players from every other school are participating in offseason programs, players from those six schools are excluded for arbitrary and outdated reasons.

As to players like Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, the impact of the rule is lessened by the job security that comes from being a top-10 draft pick. For low-round picks and undrafted free agents from Washington, Northwestern, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA, the inability to participate in the offseason program could be the kiss of death for a budding NFL career.

Nothing the NFL has said supports clinging to the rule. Unless the it changes, the message to any aspiring NFL player being recruited by major college programs is clear: Don’t go to Washington, Northwestern, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, or UCLA.

Which means that the coaches from those schools should be leading the charge to dump the May 16 Rule. As high school players and their parents become more informed and sophisticated, why would anyone who hopes to parlay the kind of football talent that leads to a scholarship offer at a major college program into an NFL career go to a school where an eventual NFL career will be delayed by a rule designed to win a battle that already has been lost?

And if the NFL genuinely wants to help college football programs boost their graduation rates, the best way to do it would be to disband the pre-draft process entirely, scrapping the all-star games, Scouting Combine, Pro Day workouts, and other things that routinely compel aspiring NFL players to quit going to college so that they can focus their efforts on putting on the best show possible for scouts.

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20 Responses to “NFL tries to defend indefensible quarters rule”
  1. kemp13 says: Jun 16, 2017 12:03 PM

    “They drop out of college after their eligibility expires. ”

    That’s not the problem! A ton of players (such as McCaffrey) drop out BEFORE their eligibility expires.

  2. travishenrykid says: Jun 16, 2017 12:05 PM

    It would seem that the rule should apply to EVERYONE, no off-season activities until after your school’s finals are over. No off-seasons for rookies until after mid-May.

  3. harrisonhits2 says: Jun 16, 2017 12:15 PM

    The only the league cares about regarding the NCAA is that they get a free player development system that costs them nothing.

    They don’t care at all about the schools or players, lets be real about that. Its only that they don’t have the spend the money on a developmental league.

  4. reprob8 says: Jun 16, 2017 12:18 PM

    NFL doesn’t care about graduation rates. They care about the public perception that they care.

    Drafted players should be able to join their respective teams. If they choose to complete their degrees, they can make it happen without any “concern” from the league.

  5. thepopefromtv says: Jun 16, 2017 12:31 PM

    Seems to me that the students who are potential NFL material should know ahead of time (or be told) that they’re about to attend a school that will require their NFL career to start weeks later than other schools. Let the students decide what to do with that information ahead of time. Then the students will choose to transfer or not. And then schools will choose to change their rules due to a decrease in NFL caliber talent, or not.

  6. I prefer my Crush to be Orange says: Jun 16, 2017 12:40 PM

    Weird, it doesn’t seem to effect those schools’ recruiting. When it does they’ll probably make the appropriate changes to remain competitive. Until then, why the fuss?

  7. jaysayz says: Jun 16, 2017 12:42 PM

    It’s so they aren’t pressured to quit school and loose those credits. Not ever player makes millions some get a cut and never make it in the NFL and those credits will be missed by them when they try to go back and finish school on their own dime. This is one thing the NFL does that isnt selfish and you want them to stop. SMH

  8. hobiecat1 says: Jun 16, 2017 12:45 PM

    It’s not Rocket Surgery…Athletes or not, students drop out of college all of the time due to life choices or circumstances. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever return.

  9. BIGGSHAUN says: Jun 16, 2017 1:03 PM

    “Graduation rates were very important to colleges then, as they are now,”

    I laughed

  10. kevpft says: Jun 16, 2017 1:19 PM

    I prefer my Crush to be Orange says:
    Jun 16, 2017 12:40 PM

    Weird, it doesn’t seem to effect those schools’ recruiting. When it does they’ll probably make the appropriate changes to remain competitive. Until then, why the fuss?

    ==============

    Because the schools and the league have all the leverage, and it’s only the young men being used by the system who feel any effects of it.

  11. backintheday99 says: Jun 16, 2017 1:22 PM

    Stanford is a top 5 school (1-5) depending on who’s talking).

    Northwestern and UCLA fall between 20 and 30. (NW near 20 and UCLA near 30)

    Washington is just out of the top 100 and the two Oregon schools are barely rated.

    So, you think Richard Sherman or Doug Baldwin would have gotten into Stanford? (or even UCLA?). They are presumed very intelligent (and they may well be) but no way they got near perfect SAT’s etc.

    I’d go to Stanford or UCLA in a heart beat if I got a scholarship there. So would any intelligent person looking a step past football.

    Baldwin was an UDA and Sherman a mid round pick and they did okay.

    I think the answer if some rookies can’t participate than none should.

  12. nwsuccess says: Jun 16, 2017 2:17 PM

    Could play a role in the college these players elect to go to based on which system they are using.

  13. returntoexcellence says: Jun 16, 2017 2:27 PM

    kevpft says:
    Jun 16, 2017 1:19 PM
    I prefer my Crush to be Orange says:
    Jun 16, 2017 12:40 PM

    Weird, it doesn’t seem to effect those schools’ recruiting. When it does they’ll probably make the appropriate changes to remain competitive. Until then, why the fuss?

    ==============

    Because the schools and the league have all the leverage, and it’s only the young men being used by the system who feel any effects of it.
    ____________________________

    Only in this country, only in this day and age, would a free college education, a chance to be paid millions playing a game, and the freedom to walk away from it all whenever you want, be called, “being used by the system”. Smh…

  14. owa65 says: Jun 16, 2017 2:28 PM

    I, as a fan, don’t care. If they try to join when they’re 12 or when they’re 19 doesn’t make a difference to me. It is there choice and there shouldn’t be regulations in place that keep them from trying (no matter their age). Make them eligible earlier and avoid all the college drama. If someone thinks they’re good enough for the pros, going to college is just a joke. Let all who want to try try. After a overwhelming amount fail, maybe more will consider college to hone their craft.

  15. liveforwhatuwoulddiefor says: Jun 16, 2017 2:39 PM

    Kemp13 says:
    Jun 16, 2017 12:03 PM
    “They drop out of college after their eligibility expires. ”

    That’s not the problem! A ton of players (such as McCaffrey) drop out BEFORE their eligibility expires.

    Please do your homework before you make a comment. Mccaffrey graduated early he didnt drop out. The rule should atleast be changed for people who graduate early.It would make more athletes work harder to finish early and some of the athletes that werent interested in finishing school will actually graduate if they feel it help their draft position.

  16. 2since96 says: Jun 16, 2017 2:56 PM

    NFL won’t do it because they’re in bed w ncaa.

    Capitalism is what makes our world so fake. A bunch of lies by the NFL on why the rule is their, when the truth is, money.

    These corporations need to stop lying and just be real. We won’t do it because the ncaa doesn’t want us to do it and they’re training gives the NFL it’s players.

    Colleges don’t care wether these cats graduate or not, they just want that football revenue for as long as possible.

  17. Bob says: Jun 16, 2017 3:34 PM

    “For low-round picks and undrafted free agents from Washington, Northwestern, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA, the inability to participate in the offseason program could be the kiss of death for a budding NFL career.”

    If that’s the kiss of death, then the guy wasn’t that good in the first place. If you’re good enough, they’ll find you and you’ll play.

    Furthermore, based on the number of guys who get hurt in “offseason activities”, it’s not very smart for these teams to hold these “offseason activities”, which are really more contact practices, regardless of what the teams say. The more reps you have in football, the greater chance a player has of getting hurt. Yet these cavemen coaches keep insisting on OTAs, hurt left tackles be damned.

  18. hawaiifunfnull says: Jun 16, 2017 4:02 PM

    Just a pro-tip if you’re not sure you’ll make the NFL but get a full ride from Stanford: go to Stanford.

  19. TL;DR says: Jun 16, 2017 6:59 PM

    Athletes at the collegiate level get no respect I tell ya..

  20. jgedgar70 says: Jun 20, 2017 8:43 AM

    There are two ways to deal with this:

    1) Washington, Northwestern, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA could get with the rest of the world and go to a semester calendar instead of quarters.

    2) The “May 16 rule” can be amended to add a section 4, which would read, “In the case of a player that is not enrolled in any classes after December 31, that player may fully participate in any offseason activities after being drafted or signed.”

    C’mon, this isn’t all that hard.

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