Texas A.D. gives NFL permission to get rid of three-year rule, sort of


When it comes to the tenuous relationship between the NFL and its free farm system known as college football, pro football’s most significant contribution comes from the rule that prevents players from joining the NFL until three years after their high school class has graduated.  This anti-competitive labor rule creates a rolling three-year window of world-class football players who have no viable alternative to playing college football.

As the curators of the NFL’s free farm system try to continue to have a free labor force, they may eventually give the NFL permission to start paying the players college football doesn’t want to pay.

“If you’re a football player coming out of high school that decides you want to go to the pros, go take up your issue with [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell, the owners, and the union,” Texas A.D. Steve Patterson said Tuesday, via the Associated Press.  “That’s your place to go, if you want to go play professional football, if you want to go be an employee.”

Patterson has a clear interest in keeping student-athletes from becoming student-employees.  If players in any sport must be paid, Patterson’s job instantly gets a lot harder — and his compensation inevitably gets lower.

Apart from paying players, Patterson would have many other headaches he doesn’t currently have, if the Longhorns sports teams exercise their eventual right to collectively bargain for better conditions or benefits or anything else that currently falls within the discretion of the school and the NCAA.

Patterson’s knee-jerk reaction seems more like the anger phase of the five-step process of dealing with bad news.  But if more NCAA schools adopt his “if you want to be employees get the hell out of here” message, then the NFL no longer would be hurting college football programs by welcoming players straight out of high school; the NFL possibly would be helping them.

Indeed, that could be something the NCAA eventually requests from the NFL.  A decade after the league incorporated the three-year rule into the CBA to make it bulletproof from a legal standpoint as a bouquet for college football, college football may decide that having a path to paid football programs makes players less likely to be deemed “employees” when the initial ruling from the NLRB in the Northwestern case snakes its way through the full legal process.

Of course, none of it will matter if/when Jeffrey Kessler’s antitrust-based lawsuit against the NCAA succeeds.  For college sports, Kessler’s plan presents a far greater threat, for reasons we’ll eventually address at length in a separate post.  After all, PFT union rules permit only one topic per story.

20 responses to “Texas A.D. gives NFL permission to get rid of three-year rule, sort of

  1. Most people would love full ride scholarships to some of the world’s most prestigious colleges.

    Some people, that’s just not enough…

  2. Fun idea: Player are eligible for the draft at 18, can try out for their NFL team during rookie camps and OTAs, and if they don’t make the team they go to CFB, while their current team maintains their rights. (See, NHL)

  3. I don’t think the colleges should pay the players, but I don’t see why they can’t make money from other sources. For crying out loud, NFL players aren’t even allowed to give gifts to people who go to to the same school that they went to

  4. The three year rule is a good thing and makes sense. If you eliminate it you will see two things: first college football will disappear. Second NFL injuries will increase.
    College plays shouldn’t get paid, however they should be able to use their stardom to make money from companies like NIKE and such.

  5. The NFL wouldn’t like the NHL model because they couldn’t televise the draft, combine, etc. because nobody will know who the 18 year old HS player is. It only works because we have been watching these players for 3 years in CFB.

  6. It all points to someone, somewhere, starting up a league that pays 18-20 year olds to play football, without the pretense of having to take Basket Weaving 1A for eight consecutive semesters.

    Such a league would be up against a giant in the NCAA, but would be able to attract players by paying them in cash, not with the promise of an education that the university may or may not be serious about providing to athletes.

  7. With the equality rule (proposition xix) the schools will be required to pay ALL team athletes (softball,volleyball,track etc…) the same as the football players. The only option for most will be to drop all sports but basketball, football, and two women’s sports. They would probably substitute club teams with no scholarships involved for the others. Otherwise they would lose a huge lawsuit over inequality.

  8. I am sure the union reps have not advised the players of the tax consequences of being employees and that their scholarship will be considered taxable income. The value of a Northwestern scholarship is pretty high, and I wonder where the players are going to come up with the $20,000 a year in taxes they will be hit with if Mommy and Daddy don’t have it laying around.

  9. If they are employees then they have to pay income tax on the scholarship and everything else that comes with it…how many kids have the $$$$ to pay the tax on income that maybe worth 60 to 100K.

  10. These children should remain in school. They would go from playing against other high school children to going against strong, grown men! The NFL and NBA should both have a minimum 3-year college rule. Stop being so impatient, microwave generation!

    Just because a kid wants to be a professional athlete doesn’t mean he has that right. It’s a privilege. What if that same kid wanted to become President of the United States after one 1 1/2 semesters of college and rule says you must be at least 35? Does he sue the nation? What if he wants to be an appellate court judge after one year of law school, or a medical doctor operating on people’s brains and hearts after one year of pre-med biology? Just because he wants to, doesn’t mean he should be able to? You be the judge.

    There is a reason for seasoning. Experience is crucial. This impatience has got to stop! The NBA SUCKS because they have so many unskilled players who can’t shoot, dribble or defend and they will be adding more with Wiggins, Parker, etc. Charles Barkley and others are right, these kids should stay in school. They are not prepared to be pros. Plus, your education will outlast your sports career. Ask all of the retired players who made money, lost it and have no college degrees.

    And if they don’t make it in the NBA, they will become career D-Leaguers with no education. Enjoy the college journey like other college students and prepare for life after sports now, not later.

    No matter how much money you earn, if you can’t manage it~and the people around you, it will become more of a detriment than a blessing.

    Be wise. If it’s meant to be for you to go pro, it’ll happen.

  11. Follow the money. College football has very little to do with the athletes and a lot to do with funding the entire sports programs of colleges (men and women’s) along with sky high salaries for major college football coaches. The colleges won’t give up the goose that lays the golden eggs without a fight.

  12. Let them join the pros straight out of highschool, If they can make the team during tryouts. Keep the college draft, but do not allow highscool graduates in the draft. And change the pay scale of the NFL to that which we see in the real world. No college degree = no high pay. No real world experience = no high pay. No highschool diploma = we’ll let you know when the waterboy position opens up. Let the NFL pay the federal minimu wage for the first 3+ years of their career. But still pay college players with 3+ years experience their millions once they are out of college.

  13. A full-ride scholarship can get you an education, but it doesn’t pay for the ACL surgery by Dr. James Andrews.

    A million dollar signing bonus will do both.

  14. just pay them the amount of the scholarships, let them pay taxes. seriously a free education isn’t enough?? smh i get the colleges make a lot of money off them, but if they are getting a free education and free room and board. dorm room and meal tickets. how can they complain?

  15. This linked with title IX will be the death blow of the college sports of football and men’s basketball.
    Once they pay the football players, all the other sports will demand equality under Title IX.
    The answer is for the colleges to loosen their involvement in the money making sports.
    They do this by sponsoring them instead of offering them.
    I see the answer as a 5 year league with a maximum of 4 years of eligibility. The league has a roster maximum and hopefully a salary cap.
    One team would set up shop in Columbus OH and pay the university a sponsorship and facilities fee. This allows them to use the schools facilities and colors and blah blah blah….
    It is up to that team and school to determine if they want to offer scholarships as part of the players salary. The player can attend the school or not, again depending on the contract.
    The school still sees the income and can use those funds towards the current non-revenue programs it offers.
    It gets the schools the money and gets them out of Title IX and eliminates most of the crazy rules programs have to follow to protect the sanctity of the student athlete.

  16. Maybe the entire college system is a sham and should be abolished. It’s just a “free farm system” for industry and government, right?

    I can’t go hang a shingle on the side of my house and start practicing law or medicine, why is professional football any different? No one can make a sound case for why an 18 year old kid with athletic talent has more of a right to skip the required training for his chosen profession than anyone else has for their own–whether it be law, medicine, education, or anything else with an training or education requirement.

    This righteous indignation about how the colleges make millions and the players “only” get their scholarships is a tired argument. Unless you own your own business, you work for someone or something that makes exponentially more than your compensation package. It’s called life, and it’s not fair. Get used to it.

  17. You’ll probably see a change in scholarships. They’ll probably be enough for the room and board. All classes, books, and materials will be deducted from the bi weekly paycheck. After income taxes, soc sec tax, Medicaid, etc get removed. I really don’t think these kids have fully thought this thing through.

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