Barkley takes a big risk by sticking around


For a while on Thursday, it wasn’t clear whether USC quarterback Matt Barkley was announcing his plans for playing football in 2012 or running for public office.

And then, at one point, Barkley’s micro-Favre “will-he-or-won’t-he” routine seemed like a bad SNL skit, especially when he was abruptly interrupted while standing in front of a Christmas tree decorated with, among other things, full-size french horns by eleven piping pipers, twelve drumming drummers, and two of the nine ladies dancing.

Ultimately, Barkley made it clear that he’ll be staying at USC.  While he’s not the first player to pass up an opportunity to pass the football at the highest level, he’s the most recent — and thus he’ll become the centerpiece of the debate regarding whether guys should leave early.

Most football players play college football because they hope to play pro football.  Statistically speaking, few ever do.  But when a college player is deemed ready to play at the next level, it’s akin to a Doogie Howser-style student, who has accelerated his studies and thus has become ready to graduate.  While that typically means departing before finishing the requirements of a degree, a degree can always be obtained later, after the pro playing career has ended.

The vague notion that the degree should be obtained before leaving for the NFL comes at least in part from the college coaches who want to see the kids continue to play for free preying on the fairly linear thinking in which parents and grandparents who didn’t go to college often engage.  For families who have yet to see a child march with cap and gown, getting the degree becomes almost as important as getting paid to play football.

In the end, getting paid to play football should be the primary concern.  At the college level, they aren’t.  (Presumably.)  Players like Barkley put themselves at risk on every snap.  A serious injury could permanently derail the dream to play in the NFL — or, at a minimum, delay it significantly.

But at least the player will be able to earn dramatically less money in another industry, thanks to his degree.

The new rookie wage scale makes it even more important to strike while the iron is hot.  For starters, the financial difference that results from moving up only one pick in the top 10 has become dramatically smaller than it used to be, reducing the benefit of returning to school for a year and bumping up the draft stock by a few spots.  And with the truly big money now delayed until the player makes it to his second NFL contract, it’s more important than ever to start ticking off the years under that first NFL contract.

Some will now compare Matt Barkley to Matt Leinart, the last USC quarterback to decide to exhaust his eligibility.  Significant differences exist, however.  Leinart had accomplished everything that he could have accomplished at the college level, winning a Heisman and a national title — along with earning that all-important degree.  When he decided to take ballroom dancing and a victory lap or two around sorority row, Leinart triggered real questions about whether he wants to be a football player, or whether he wants to be a celebrity.

For Barkley, NCAA sanctions have kept him from pursuing a BCS title or a Pac-Whatever championship.  It surely also kept him from being a serious candidate for a Heisman Trophy.  And so his college experience isn’t truly complete.

Regardless, any decision to stick around by a college athlete will conjure memories of what Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino supposedly tells his players who are deemed to be ready to make the jump to the NBA.

“You can go and help your family,” Pitino says.  “Or you can stay and help mine.”

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65 responses to “Barkley takes a big risk by sticking around

  1. Rick Pitino said it best… Go get the big bucks while they’re there. With what rookies make he’ll more than likely make more in a year than he would in 5 with a degree. Assuming he was to land a job right away that paid close to 6 figures. Get the money!!!

  2. He’s stupid. All athletes who stay are. For the simple reason that college will be there forever, but your window of opportunity to be an athlete is finite.

    He can pop an ACL, break a leg, break some ribs, take a head shot in the first day of practice next year and cost himself his opportunity to ever play at the highest level, as well as a pile of money.

    Leave school. Go be a pro athlete — you’ll make enough money, usually, to last your whole life if you’re smart with it (a guy like this one, going as high as he will, will make more in a signing bonus than most of us will in a lifetime of hard work). Then, when your career is over, there are thousands of colleges to choose from should you want to finish a degree program — and the one you left would love to have you back.

  3. It’s his decision. He hasn’t even played in a bowl game and USC has been largely ignored because of that.

    The most recent example, preceding Barkley, was Andrew Luck. Are things not working out for him?

  4. Good decision by Barkley. TIM TEBOW stuck around to graduate and now he’s the best quarterback in the ENTIRE NFL!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. There’s always risk in returning to college football, but as we’ve seen with Sam Bradford and Jake Locker, returning is not a bad thing at all. They both went in the top 10 after returning for their senior years.

    Barkley was a victim of circumstance. He went to USC at a time where it made it impossible to compete at the highest level thanks to sanctions. Now that the bowl ban is lifted, he wants to come back and compete at the highest level of college football.

    Good for him. Not only will he get a chance to further develop his skills, he will get a chance to be the #1 overall pick in 2013. Good luck to him. I hope it works out the way he wants it to.

  6. A kid deciding to stay in school and FINISH is never a risk.

    There are tons of idiots in pro-sports who don’t finish school, waste all their money, and have nothing to fall back on other than, “I can catch a football!”

  7. The Leinart comparisons are ludicrous.

    For one, Leinart busting in the NFL had nothing to do with staying in school. He could’ve come out a year earlier, and the same thing would have happened.

    For two, Barkley isn’t caught up in that hollywood lifestyle like Leinart was. Guy’s got a good head on his shoulders, devout christian – not caught up in a party lifestyle.

  8. While its true that you can go back and get your degree after your playing career, it is much easier to do it while you are younger and used to the school/study mode. People who go back to school at later years usually struggle and have to work at it much harder. I applaud those who stay around and finish their degree in college before jumping pro.

  9. wouldn’t anybody kill to be able to be usc quarterback for one year?! think of being big man on campus there. all the beaches and beotches… also, from what i hear, he comes from a well to do family and doesn’t need the money. how would making a few million in minnesota be any better for him? life could never be better for matt barkely than it is right now. he’s having the time of his life.

  10. I am cheering for this kid.
    I hope he accomplishes everything he sets out to do AND gets chosen no 1 in next year`s draft.

  11. Mike you really miss the boat sometimes. If you know anything about Barkley, his dream was to play at USC, not in the NFL. This should surprise no one. He wanted to play the full 4 years when he got to SC, and he wants to finish it out even more now because of the Bowl sanctions the past two years. He gets to go to a bowl game and has a team that will contend for a national championship next year. This is Barkleys dream. The NFL will be there when he’s done living the dream.

  12. Its sad how you want to bad mouth a Kid, about returning to school instead of going pro. The NFL is always going to be their for Matt. Enjoy your senior year Matt. Fight On USC.

  13. I gotta think, strike while the iron is hot- you’ll make more $$ in the next 5 years than the 20 years after that….

  14. When was the last time a Pitino coached player who was even halfway decent in the NBA? Antoine Walker?

  15. “In the end, getting paid to play football should be the primary concern.”

    You know, Mike, football may be everything to you, it may be everything to the people who read and post on these boards, but there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t involve the NFL.

    The college experience, particularly the experience one gets attending a major U.S. college, is something to be cherished. I applaud any underclassman who makes a quality-of-life decision to finish his degree, and enjoy that last year of college life, rather than enter the NFL grind.

  16. Matt Barkley loves USC and he has a fire to win and it shows loyalty. I’m a huge Barkley fan, and obviously as a USC fan I love this. He will still be a 1st round pick when he comes out.

  17. Good now please kill oregon next year. For as much as I can’t stand USC oregon is one team i can’t stomach, with their ugly uniforms and homefield calls.

    My bottom 3 overrated teams
    1 ohio state
    2 notre dame
    3 oregon

  18. Doesn’t his family have money? He’ll take out insurance on himself.

    Stay another year at USC, maybe he wins the hiesman and the nationally championship. Even if he fails at both, he’ll still go top 10. Plus, he gets to smash some more hot USC girls.

  19. Getting a Heisman and a national championship probably would make Barkley a lot happier than playing on some bad team in some loser city.

  20. Ever since Synder has touched the Redskins the team has continued to suffer. Coaching turnover, bad signings, worst drafting, even death of their best player. Today it continues.

    Welcome back Train-Rex, I guess. Sure they’ll trade back again in hopes for OL and WR. Not sure “RG3” or any other QB with a nickname is ready to read NFL defenses.

    Most fans do not understand how one can LOVE the team so much while they HATE the owner.

    Snyder sell the team, go bankrupt, or die already.

    This used to be THE franchise of the league, now it couldn’t compete in the arena league.

  21. If he does what Luck did and gets a guaranteed insurance policy worth millions just in case he does get that career-ending injury in his senior year, it would be a smart move. 😉

  22. good choice. it’s about being the #1 overall pick and all the off the field money that comes with that. he has a pretty good shot at a BCS title and a heisman too.

  23. Matt Barkley will be the best QB to ever come out of USC…Now if you”ll excuse me, I”ve got to attend a news conference, I must announce that Ive found Bigfoot, The Loch Ness monster, and a QB who attended Ohio State who will win a Super Bowl as a Rookie!

    Serously, I thought the conference was called the “Oregon” 12, not the PAC 12.

  24. Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Drew Brees….

    You are all so right, look at the disaster that becomes of QBs when they stay all 4 years of college and get a degree. Just think how great all those guys would be if they’d left early. Give me a break…

  25. I think this article completely ignores the fact that this year is the third QB at best maybe the fourth depending how you feel about Landry Jones. He will not get drafted ahead of Andrew Luck and RGIII. This is an extremely deep QB draft and he is going to come back to school, so next year he guarantees himself top five money, that will pay for itself and it is an ego thing as well. He is head of the class next year with Aaron Murray from UGA.

    It is actually a pretty smart move if you think of it from that perspective. There is an injury risk, but it is USC, when was the last time a QB got hurt there? Sanchez was hurt for a game three years ago, but that is all

  26. Disagree andrebrowne. I don’t think there’s a huge step down to him from Luck. He’s play’s in a pro style system, 3 year starter, can make all the throws and is as accurate as they come. Plus his teams weren’t nearly as loaded as the Sanchez/Lienhart teams; he had a lot less to work with.

    I know people probably have the Cam Newton syndrome in falling in love with mobile QB’s (even though it’s Cam’s arm that makes him good), but I dont’ think he’d have fallen below RGIII.

  27. Jimmy Fallon needs to update his capital one commercial. Apparently not everyone wants more money.

  28. Nothing is guaranteed. However respectable it might be that he is staying another year, nothing is guaranteed. Maybe he doesn’t get hurt but has a sub par year and his draft stock drops. Maybe he gets hurt. Another QB puts up numbers that puts him at the top of the draft board. The teams who have the first picks in the draft do not have the need for a QB or a different position player becomes a “can’t miss” pick. Crazier things have happened. Who knows. I just believe he should’ve gone pro now.

  29. How many college QB’s suffered career or season ending injuries this year? What about the last ten years?

    I’m assuming that percentage is really low. If he plays well again, he’s going to be the top QB in a worse QB class next year.

  30. No Mike, it ain’t all about the benjamins. School is not there whenever he returns, because lots of players become punch drunk due to constant hits and no longer are even capable of reading a book, let alone studying one. To criticize a kid who wants to the right and upstanding thing is simply a window into the shallowness that is US sports and their writers. Just how many star players never got a chance to play due to injury after going back for that last year of school, Mike? Zero you say? Ok there, hypothetical Mike!

  31. No, no, no all wrong here’s what he debated…

    Jacksonville sucks-who’s the coach next year

    Miami sucks-who’s the coach next year

    Cleveland-who wants to go to cleveland no glamor playing there

    USC-hmm no the coach, could play for Championship and possibly the heisman think my odds are better to stay one more year…

  32. “You can go and help your family,” Pitino says. “Or you can stay and help mine.”

    I think you have the wrong crooked Kentucky coach. Pretty sure it was Calipari who said that.

  33. Barkley is smart and he did his homework. He has a chance to continue as a student athlete playing for a team that is competitive for a next year’s national title. His alternative is to leave for the NFL and depending upon which team he gets drafted by he’ll either be holdoing a clipboard on the sidelines or worse, playing on a weak team with no chance to make the playoffs working behind an O-line that has less ability to give protection than he has a USC.

    Sometimes a decision is less about the money (which with near certainty will be there a year from now) over potentially accomplishing something very special finishing out his final year at a top school.

  34. Enough with the he’s taking a big risk stuff already. Sam Bradford went back, injured his shoulder, hardly played the entire season and what did it get him? The number one over all selection. The NFL actually likes Sr. QB’s and don’t get amnesia and forget what these guys did in their Jr. year. Just more media drama.

  35. sportssportssportssports says:
    Dec 22, 2011 7:13 PM
    Good decision by Barkley. TIM TEBOW stuck around to graduate and now he’s the best quarterback in the ENTIRE NFL!!!!!!!!!!!


    I think Tom Brady pretty much ended that ridiculous notion last week.

  36. pudgalvin RGIII is not a mobile QB, he is fast, but he does not run like Cam does in the NFL or at Auburn.

    Barkley is not better than either Luck or RGIII. It is not me saying that, it is a pile of analysts. Barkley stays in school and comes out next year with another year of polish and will be a guaranteed top five pick, this year it is a crapshoot.

  37. I was definitely in shock when I saw that Matt Barkley had decided to stay at USC. I know it’s a draft heavy quarterback and Barkley could end up being the 3rd QB taken. I know his family has lots of money so that’s not a problem but I still think it is a big risk. A lot of people seem to be in favour of it and I can see why because this guy should have a stellar season with a couple of great wideouts next season. It’ll be very interesting to see how the decision of another top quarterback to stay in school plays out over the next year.

  38. I really, really wanted this kid in Miami. I think he could be better than Luck, and he seems more certain than RGIII (who may have the highest ceiling, but also the lowest floor).

    However, I applaud Matt for making a decision NOT based on immediate gratification. Sure, he risks injury…but he also risked being a bust by coming out too early rather than refining his skills. This shows maturity and confidence. That he is loyal to his school is NOT a bad thing either.

    I’m not a USC fan, but I will be rooting for Matt Barkley next year.

  39. Classy move I wish him the best he has stuck with this program through out all of the illegal activity that has been brought forward by the NCAA when most would have bailed. Kinda makes me think his deal with the school must be tied to a four year agreement unlike most of the three and done year deals they sign. The agent who signed him up deserves a bonus.

  40. Grown intelligent men dont turn down millions of dollars,hes still a boy,college degrees are worth 30 grand a year on a job,like i said grown intellegent men dont turn down millions of dollars.Unemployment high ,people losing there homes,and he stays in school okay good luck kid,hope it works out for you…….dummy

  41. Sorry, but Sam Bradford was unhealthy and Jake Locker was less productive in their last NCAA seasons.

    They both went in the top 10!!!

    Locker however was more idiotic because if there was this constant rumble of “there will be a rookie wage scale” then he should have jumped out!!!

  42. I love Pitino’s comment, and you can’t be more honest about it. Look, I would love for Griffin to stay at Baylor for his last year – but that’s only because I’m a Bear, I’m selfish, and it’s been too damn many years since we were competitive. I would like to savor that one more year.

    But I would think him crazy to stay and not take care of his family, as Rick said.

  43. First, the point about the rookie wage scale making staying less valuable than in the past also works the other way. Because the difference between draft picks has less of an effect monetarily, it also means that falling in the draft does not have the same negative impact that it had, say when Leinart fell from the presumptive first pick one year to the tenth pick the following draft.

    Second, the idea that a player is at risk of a career-ending injury if he goes back to play in college, while present, is not nearly as threatening as in the past. Career-ending injuries seem far less common than in the past. Players come back from nearly every injury except the most catastrophic ones. Players return from knee and shoulder injuries all the time. Since he is not a running back or wide receiver, a knee injury would not even have the same effect since the game of a QB does not rely on the same explosive quickness as other positions. We’ve also seen plenty of QBs return from injuries to their throwing arms/shoulders and show no ill effects, even, as in the case of Bradford, get drafted first overall just months after a severe throwing shoulder injury that affected his ability to throw a football in a BCS bowl game.

    Finally, the argument about college always being there is inherently flawed as well. While the ability to get a degree is always there, one only has one shot at the college experience. For everyone, that is different. While for some it is truly just about getting in position to make the most money. For others it’s about earning a degree. Still for others, it’s about the total experience and growing as a person, or even about something else entirely. For anyone to put his or her own ideas about what a college football player is looking to gain from being in college is on that individual is an injustice. If we do choose to evaluate a player’s decision on whether to leave or stay, it is important to evaluate it based only on their reasons and the logic associated with that. If a player chooses to leave because he believes he can be an early round pick, but is unlikely to even be drafted, then the decision can be criticized. To criticize a decision that is well thought out and based on different values then our own, is flawed and unfair, especially when made by those of us who could never truly understand what it is to be in a similar situation.

  44. Another case where a guy just can’t win. If he’d left early, some people would be calling him selfish. But he stays in school and others call him foolish. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

    I think the line about taking care of your family was from Calipari and not Pitino, but there is truth to it. However, realistically speaking, this most likely isn’t going to hurt Barkley. The new rookie salary scale means his first contract isn’t going to be nearly as rich as in the past, so whether he goes in the first couple picks as opposed to a bit later on in the draft isn’t that big an issue any more. Sure, he could suffer a career-ending injury and that’s worth serious consideration, but the odds of that aren’t really high and I wonder if he couldn’t take out an insurance policy to help guard against that possibility.

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