College coaches want more time, information for early draft entries


University of Alabama Coach Nick Saban and his counterpart at Arkansas, Bret Bielema, told reporters at the Southeastern Conference’s annual meetings Tuesday they’d like to see the NFL and NCAA pursue rule changes that would give underclassmen draft entries more flexibility to return to school if they may go undrafted or may be drafted later than initially thought.

Under the current rules, underclassmen must declare for the NFL Draft by mid-January. Among the potential changes Bielema and Saban have proposed is a combine-like event for underclassmen that would allow those players to better assess how they’re perceived by NFL evaluators.

“If you ask the NFL, ‘How can we maintain trust with our players when you’re giving us inaccurate information?’ Their response is ‘We don’t know enough about the guys to really give you the information because all we can really go on is film evaluation,'” Saban said. “That’s why we have a combine and all these other things. We want accurate information when that’s all said and done in December.”

Thirty players who gave up remaining college eligibilty to enter the 2016 NFL Draft went undrafted. An NBA rule change implemented for this year gave basketball prospects more time to evaluate their decisions and allowed them to participate in the league’s pre-draft combine ahead of the deadline to stay in the draft or return to school. The feedback those players got from NBA teams is something Bielema wants college football players to be able to receive from NFL evaluators.

“If (an underclassman) could sit down with NFL people or personnel people that are making the decisions firsthand, I think it could be a great resource,” Bielema said. “And you know what? It works out better for everybody. Graduation rates to go up. Success rates go up. Failure rates go down. Kids are in school longer. Kids are in preparation to be in the NFL to play longer.”

A potential rule change involving early draft entries is something Bielema has discussed previously — probably for reasons that benefit him, as the coach at Arkansas — and it sounds like something various people related to the SEC want to pursue. How realistic it is, or what else can be done to avoid players making really bad decisions, remains to be seen.

College football season ends about six weeks before the annual NFL Scouting Combine and just about the time the second semester starts at most universities. The NCAA doesn’t have much of a track record of being kind to athletes who want to get paid for playing but then try to return to college sports.

“Well, we’re in our first year of the new basketball reality. I’ve talked to a few of our coaches who have had the experience. I think the feedback’s been positive,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “The young people have real-time, very valid information on their draft status. And they know up front not to compromise their eligibility from an NCAA standpoint.

“There is conversation about how might you accomplish this same outcome in football. That is a little bit different. The timing of the end of the semester, when the draft occurs, preparation for the draft, what type of feedback might be there. The NCAA could change with no alteration of the NBA’s draft timeline, practically speaking. I’m not sure that happens from an NFL standpoint. It’s a good idea. There’s likely some thought and work that needs to be contributed to see if that good idea can become a reality.”

19 responses to “College coaches want more time, information for early draft entries

  1. Giving them more time is a good idea.

    Allowing them to go through a combine I’d be torn on (what happens if a kid gets injured).

    Allowing them to go back to play in college once declaring and not being drafted (not the point of the article, I get it) I’m totally against. Kids need to learn from their mistakes.

  2. I’ve never understood what the hiring of an agent has to do with ones status as an “amateur”. Likewise, what does ones application (draft) for a job (NFL/NBA, etc) have to do with ones status as an “amateur”?

    It really is a tactic employed by the NCAA and schools to try and scare kids into staying so the college system can maximize the system’s profit. It has nothing to do with any actual compromise of amateurism. If the receipt of money by the player from any of these sources is the concern (and I still don’t get why these kids aren’t allowed to make money off their name and work), then allow the kids to pay back the money to continue their college career.

    It’s just time for the NCAA to step into the 21st century and let go of antiquated practices.

  3. So the NCAA is totally fine with taking their so called student athletes away from studies every long 4 day weekend from Sept – December, but can’t see how to fit into the schedule getting kids to the combine?
    Also, they’ve been preparing for the draft since they stepped on campus (if not sooner) with multi-million dollar gymnasiums & full time trainers, why is this time any different?
    I understand if they sign an agent & take cash that they shouldn’t be able to go back, but I think the NBA has a very positive, progressive way to show these underclassmen, that no, no matter what they think & what their handlers are telling them, they are not ready to leave college for the pros yet.
    It seems like some of these bone head players feel they now are above the advice of their college coaches & that they don’t needs them anymores. That coach trying to hold them down & make their bucks off their backs (which they all do at every level) when they can go Pro instead. But if pro personnel tell them directly to go back to school, maybe it will resonate a little more.

  4. Should allow these guys to be drafted and go back to school like hockey and baseball.

  5. What for? There are consequences to every decision. Here in the real world, we don’t get a do-over every time a decision we make does not go as planned.

    Declaring for the draft is a football decision. Either stay for your full eligibility or give up any remaining eligibility in order to declare for the draft. If you don’t make it return to school on an academic scholarship or pay to finish the degree like everybody else. The football decision has already been made. Coming back to play is unfair to those kids who are slotted to fill the holes. Those kids made decisions too. Transferring your consequences to them is absurd.

    The easy fix is for the NFL to make a degree a job requirement for new prospective NFL players. That will keep them in school, help them out for the long term and avoid this drama altogether.

  6. Ridiculous idea….every kid would attempt to leave. The line for the combine would look like American Idol tryouts. Every hack that ever made a tackle at Eastern Middle Kentucky State A&M would be there to see what the NFL “experts” thought of him.

  7. How about every draft eligible college player gets a one-time semester off with no scholarship loss. They could train and assess their future and still come back for the next summer session or fall semester.

    These kids should really be treated like any other college student, who can take any job he/she feels like without losing scholarships and/or transferring for any reason they see fit.

    These athletes are people with real futures and shouldn’t be treated like cattle. And that goes for both the colleges and pro teams, who don’t really care what happens to them.

    They shouldn’t be banished from school just because they were gauging future employment prospects, just like any other American student is allowed to do.

  8. Everybody should remember the entire point of college is to train for a better job. Kids shouldn’t be punished for exploring options. Some are ready sooner than others. Same goes for computer programmers or economists or poets.

    And if a poet leaves school for a semester to travel Europe and publish a book, he is allowed to return without penalty.

    Playing football is a career just like any other.

    Calling an early draft declaration a “mistake” and saying kids should be “punished” is just dumb.

    All parties involved should want the best for these young adults and at the very early stages of one’s career, they may not know which options are the best for them. That’s the benefit of being young. It isn’t a mistake to try something new and even risky.

    That behavior should be encouraged. Looking for a job before you get a degree shouldn’t shut you out of the education that will help you in all aspects of later life.

  9. Well my first thought is applying for the NFL is a privilege and it needs to be carefully thought out. So I would actually support a combine of some sort but who gets invited? As a previous poster said it would cause a huge amount of players to show up and can they all be evaluated properly?

    My second thought is would the NFL (and the teams especially) agree that if they draft someone they could lose him back to college? Maybe the guy doesn’t like his draft position or doesn’t like the team that drafted him.

    Draft picks are the lifeblood of these teams and I would find it really hard to believe that they would agree with them giving up picks.

  10. This is something that could actually benefit the “student athlete”. Therefore, it will be not be adopted in a timely manner will not get full support of the NCAA or universities.

    Now, if this were something that benefited the NCAA, it would be implemented tomorrow.

  11. omegalh says:
    Jun 1, 2016 9:49 AM

    Should allow these guys to be drafted and go back to school like hockey and baseball.


    I liked the idea initially, but I see a flaw in that plan. Not all teams would get the same information. You have the potential for collusion between a team and a player. Suppose a kid from Baylor gets word to the Cowboys he would leave school early if they drafted him, yet other teams, unsure if he will remain in school are reluctant to use a draft pick on him.

    The NFL could decide to use the MLB rule of awarding a draft pick in the same slot for any players that go unsigned. It would have to apply for all 7 rounds of the draft.

  12. Really, change the rules for these Coaches that make their living off the backs of Teenagers when the players make no money but the schools and the NCAA reap the cash cow profits….dumb, dumb, double dumb.

  13. I can see it now, Alabama signs undrafted free agent football player out of Clemson.

  14. kd75 says:
    Jun 1, 2016 10:43 AM

    Everybody should remember the entire point of college is to train for a better job. Kids shouldn’t be punished for exploring options. Some are ready sooner than others. Same goes for computer programmers or economists or poets.

    And if a poet leaves school for a semester to travel Europe and publish a book, he is allowed to return without penalty.

    Playing football is a career just like any other.

    They CAN go back to school like anybody else but they lose the scholarship. They are NOT kept from going back to school 🙂

  15. Are they fighting over Mark Davis hair or what city they would like to play in? PS…. none of them want to stay in the dump know as Oaktown

  16. Let the student-athletes attend the combine and/or their pro days. Let them hire an agent too (as long as they don’t receive any cash from him). Then let them withdraw from the Draft about a week before it’s held and maintain their NCAA eligibility.

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