Fournette, McCaffrey pave way for great college players to skip a full season

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Some of the folks who get paid to talk about college football are currently feeling quite threatened by the realization by those who don’t get paid to play college football that they actually have power. But the decisions of former LSU running back Leonard Fournette (pictured) and former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey to skip their respective bowl games in preparation for the draft possibly is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beyond the fact that other players inevitably will decide to not play in that one final game of their college careers, Fournette and McCaffrey have opened a door that eventually will lead to a player who: (1) has demonstrated skills that will make him a first-round draft pick; but (2) has not yet qualified for the NFL draft to skip the third year after the graduation of his high school class and spend that full season preparing for the draft (and not exposing himself to serious injury by playing football).

The same serious injury that could happen in the bowl game — for example, the serious injury that actually did happen to Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith a year ago — could happen in any game of the season, from the first of the regular season to the last. So if a player is going to sacrifice the final game of his unpaid football career in order to preserve his paid football career, why not sacrifice the full final season of his unpaid football career?

Those who have a clear financial interest in being paid by a certain four-letter network to bloviate about college football and/or major corporations to sit in a tent for a TV commercial that promotes the coverage of bowl games will never understand his because their financial interests prevent them from acknowledging the basic wisdom of the approach, even if deep down they know it.

Surely, they know it. They know that it’s not fair to give players who generate billions in revenue an education they can’t fully pursue and may not even want. They know that these players should make the same business decisions that anyone else would make. They know that the coaches who become offended when a player acts in his own best interests routinely reject and eject players who aren’t deemed to be sufficiently talented to help the coaches earn salaries that are inflated by the fact that the players don’t have to be paid.

They know the current system is inherently corrupt. They know it’s not sustainable. They know major changes to the college football model are inevitable. They know that the people responsible for the sport may eventually be inclined to say “screw it” if they can’t come up with a viable solution.

None of these concerns make it right. The players are and for decades have been exploited, and they have every right to think of themselves. Fournette is doing the right thing, McCaffrey is doing the right thing, and any player who chooses to preserve his health by sitting out one or more college football games in order to preserve his professional interests is doing the right thing.

The game plan seems to consist of delaying the inevitable for as long as possible, by shaming college football players who make business decisions and/or by raising specious arguments, like the idea that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott should quit playing pro football because he’s underpaid as a rookie.

Prescott has business decisions to make (quitting pro football because he’s not eligible for a new contract for two more years wouldn’t be a good business decision), Fournette has business decisions to make, McCaffrey has business decisions to make. Everyone connected to pro and college football has business decisions to make.

Why? Because pro and college football are billion-dollar businesses, and everyone else associated with those sports routinely make business decisions, too. The fans and the media can call the players selfish, or the fans and the media can realize that, if their sons, brothers, nephews, and/or friends were in the same situation, they’d be urging them to not blindly bend to the will of others but to engage in objective assessments of all relevant factors before making decisions on where to play, when to play, and whether to play.

65 responses to “Fournette, McCaffrey pave way for great college players to skip a full season

  1. As long as they can afford the final year of the college’s tuition, why not?

    I imagine that they would lose some draft spots as many a junior player has regressed in their final year.

  2. if my son was going to be drafted high in the draft, a guaranteed 1st or 2nd rounder I would tell him to sit out the bowl game anything other than those 2 rounds and you play and try to improve your position

  3. I understand their concern for injury…but more than that, how you can look your other teammates in the eyes after 6am workouts, meetings, all the time you spend together….then bail on them…is troubling!

  4. In Jaylon Smiths case (which is a tragic but not common path to the NFL) he was still drafted in the second round.

    It’s not as if he’s homeless and spending Christmas in a shelter.

    Heck even if they didn’t want to risk injury they could have remained loyal to their current teammates/coaching staff and lined up as decoys for the opening series. Putting themselves ahead of their team has eliminated their opponent for even preparing for them in the Bowl match ups.

  5. Ask TO how NFL GMs and coaches feel about a me-first guy? Also ask the media who kept a guy out of the HOF because he was a bad teammate. Guys who forego college games will hurt their draft position just like guys who get hurt, it is not a win-win, just saying.

  6. Didn’t a guy named Maurice Clarett try that approach a few years back? As I recall it didn’t turn out real well for him.

  7. The only way for the NFL to avoid this in the future is not to draft either one of these guys. But teams and coaches see it different. They will draft them. NCAA is going to eventually have to pay these guys.

  8. joenash72 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 1:31 PM
    How is Nick Sabah gonna get paid if y’all leave early?😉

    Assuming you meant Nick Saban, probably by the University of Alabama, which writes his mega-checks. You know… Like whatever school you’re a fan of would write to pay his salary, if he suddenly decided to leave there.

    As far as the kids sitting out a season, more from the heart of liberalism. Football players play football.

  9. Look, LSU is guaranteed $4.25 million just for appearing in the Citrus bowl. That is one of the higher payouts for bowl games. Leonard Fournette helped the team get there so he is also partly responsible for LSU getting a big payday. I think he’s earned the right to the decision he made, especially since he’s not getting any of that money. Quitting on his teammates? Please! LSU will have more money to recruit better players next year partly because of him. It would be different if they were playing for the National Championship but they aren’t. Now that there is a playoff system, and most conferences have their own tv networks to showcase a players talent, the non-champion bowl games just aren’t as important to players as they once were.

  10. By tearing up his knee in his last bowl game Jaylen Smith went from a sure fire top 10 pick to a second rounder. He went from a potential $24 million rookie contract to a $4 million contract. If I’m anyone of these player’s teammates about to turn pro I’m telling them “What are you nuts? Sit this one out and protect your health. We got this”.

  11. “Fournette, McCaffrey pave way for great college players to skip a full season”

    You mean they’ve paved the way for juniors and seniors to skip a bowl game. I fixed it for you.

  12. What’s the point of being in college if you already have an extremely high paying job in the field you want to work in?

  13. This is the culture and world we live in today, it’s all about money, not pride, not integrity, not heart, not sportsmanship, just money.

  14. I used to be among those that believed a free college education was a fair trade for college athletes, even the big stars. Nowadays though, a college degree is worthless (unless its in rocket science, petro engineering etc.), as employers DO NOT CARE about your degree and only care about experience and willingness to work for low wages. So, kids destroying their bodies to make billions for the NCAA and big universities in exchange for a piece of paper that won’t even get them a decent 50k per year job isn’t a fair swap. They’ll still end up in retail or food/service, and they don’t need college (or crippling sports injuries) for that.

  15. Did you know that most student athletes compete simply because they enjoy playing their respective sports? And did you also know that many of them, especially football players, receive very generous compensation in the form of free tuition, housing, meals, books etc…?
    From someone who just finished paying off his student loans after 14 years I have no sympathy for these people who get a free ride because they’re good at a game and if you were approaching this from a common sense perspective you wouldn’t either

  16. Why stop there? Why not wait ’til you have one great game as a freshman and then just sit out until you’re draft eligible?

    It may be the smart thing, but players playing less before they get to the NFL also means NFL play will eventually decline in quality. Not something I want to see.

  17. “This is the culture and world we live in today, it’s all about money, not pride, not integrity, not heart, not sportsmanship, just money.”

    A million thumbs up!

  18. Fournette, McCaffrey pave way for great college players to ruin college football and New Years Day Bowls.

  19. This may set off a snowball effect and make college football similar to college basketball, where the stars are just looking ahead to the pros from day 1, and sometimes they don’t really seem to care (Ben Simmons). But that attitude could be even more common in college football because they also wouldn’t want to get hurt. Both of those sports are declining in quality.

  20. @factschecker says “they could have remained loyal to their former teammates/coaching staff by lining up as decoys…”.

    You just don’t get it. Name one college coach/coaching staff that is “loyal” to their players. The players are commodities, pieces of meat to the Saban’s and Urban’s of the world.

  21. If I was on some middling team that wasn’t expected to compete for anything or that was on sanctions, I’d definitely do this after putting 2 years of my game on tape. After that, I’d go hole up with one of those nuts who have the sports workout camps and train for a year. Wouldn’t affect anything but your wear and tear. I know Jaylon Smith wishes he would have done this. Now, if a guy skips out on a loaded team that had pieces to compete for a national championship, I’d question his competitiveness, and that’s a big part of the picture as well.

  22. I, as a football fan & former team mate do NOT agree with this approach….
    Players are getting free rides & owe it to the colleges that provide them to represent them on the field as well as to their fellow team members…
    By sitting out, they may also be hurting the future draft stock of their teammates that are gutting it out or depend on them so that they too can perform at their best abilities….
    FOOTBALL IS A TEAM SPORT & these players count on each other & this sets a very poor example to others…. Image if 2-3 O-Linemen that blocked for either of those RB’s decided to do the same thing, do you think they’d be as successful??!!
    I’d love nothing more than to see NFL teams not even draft EITHER of these 2 selfish individules!!!!

  23. Fournette is smart because his NFL career may be shorter than most because of his lingering ankle problems. A doctor familiar with his ankle said that the problem won’t be solved. He will have surgery soon but the likelihood of it returning is high. So, leave the plantation and go make as much money as you can while you can.

  24. Jaylon Smith lost $20-30 million by getting injured in that game. Insurance paid him $900k. These schools are enriched on the backs of these athletes. Fournette, McCaffrey et all have only a duty to themselves. And the NFL? They will slit the throats of any player the SECOND that player stops delivering on the field.

  25. ricko1112 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 1:59 PM
    That should scare away many scouts. So, would they also sit out the Super Bowl if they’re contract was up at the end of the year?


    Oh yeah. Some team will definitely pass on Fournette because he was smart enough to sit out a pointless game to focus on his career. Good call there Todd McShay

  26. While there is definitely a risk of injury while playing, the risk of injury while training on one’s own and not playing is not 0%. I think sure-fire 1st rounders should play and get themselves an insurance policy in the event of injury, it’s a compromise approach that leaves everyone happy.

  27. @staffordisbetterthanyourteamsqb says “From someone who just finished14 years of paying off his student loans I have no sympathy for these people…”

    That’s a you problem. No one forced you to take out those loans. Choose a community college, a cheaper degree, or wait until you can afford to pay for college. Scholarship athletes have no relationship to your personal financial choices.

  28. McCaffrey and Fournette are doing the same thing. McCaffrey is being praised up and down. Fournette is being called a turncoat and selfish player who be dropped to the 6th round because of character concerns over skipping a bowl game. Hmmm. McCaffrey is white and Fournette is black. What could possible account for the significant difference in treatment?

  29. @angelogiaquinto18 says I understand their concern for injury…but more than that, how you can look your other teammates in the eyes after 6am workouts, meetings, all the time you spend together….then bail on them…is troubling!

    You mean the same way coaches do it when they jump from one program to another. I have no problem with the decision these young men are making, as long as they understand everything surrounding their decision.

  30. so then this is true of coaches who bail on their teams to pursue individual goals ahead of the bowl season? Is this true of networks that bail on televising games that weren’t as attractive as they were at the start of the season? Is this true of all of the corporate sponsors that give 6-6 teams bowl games simply for their own financial gain? Please. It is all business. IF you are in a position to finally make a decision that benefits you then by all means do it. When those in power complain you just tell them “you alright.. I learned it by watching you”.

  31. It’s dumb to make them wait 3 years to enter the NFL, anyways. Especially RB’s.

    How many great college runners flamed out in the pros not because they weren’t good, but because their college coaches drove them into the ground? Too many to count.

  32. I think Clowney is a better example. While he did play some in his last year in college, he missed a lot of action to focus on the NFL. He got drafted really early, #1, and in three seasons so far has a total of 9.5 sacks. GM’s need to make better decisions at the draft.

  33. I have no problem with it. The NCAA, the universities, and the NFL is a cutthroat business. It’s not only the Jaylon Smith incident but also Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had a serious knee injury in a practice preparing for the playoffs, he was viewed as a late 1st-2nd round pick but dropped to the 7th round. So why should they show loyalty to the coaches who would quickly abandoned them for a better job, or the universities who main concern are how much a player can bring back to the university. Also the talks of be out there for you’re teammates, I’m pretty sure a lot of them are in agreement of what McCaffrey and Fournette doing.

  34. If your team is not one of 4 in the playoff, then bowl games are meaningless exhibition games. The season ended a couple weeks ago, let the guys that are coming back next year play in the “exhibition” games.

  35. I don’t understand anybody’s problem with these guys skipping pointless bowl games. They’ve given enough to their universities and since the last time I checked we live in a society that is based on capitalism these guys are clearly making the best financial decision for their future. Let’s be honest, the only winners are the fans and the corporations excuse me universities that profit from their ability.

  36. I”ve changed my mind about this.
    As far as I’m concerned, let them skip the game.
    Why shouldn’t they prepare for the draft.
    No ones paying them & they generate all kinds of revenue for
    The school.

  37. just in case anyone is wondering about Clowney.. his teammates on the Texans are saying he is the best player on their defense.. JJ Watt included.. this comes from Vince Wolfork who knows a thing or two about D.. Talk of him being a bust is nonsense.

  38. I expect at some point scholarships will be written to disuade potential first round picks from doing this (i.e. Signing rights away or face a lawsuit).

  39. Fournette, McCaffrey pave way for great college players to ruin college football and New Years Day Bowls.


    That’s interesting. There are NO New Year’s Day bowls this season.

    I previously thought it was because it was on a Sunday and there will be sixteen professional games that day.

    Now I find out it’s because of Fournette and McCaffrey.

    Learn something every day!

  40. They should have taken the year off. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming back. Can’t be believe an agent hasn’t started a some kind of camp to take guys like them in.

    For those who are asking about their scholarship status. They can take it out of the jersey sales don’t ya think? You got to be kidding me with that garbage. The school should stand by the kid and get them ready for the next step. This exposure is great for the program while trying to recruit the next star player. Their success is linked at the next level. You want them having a career saying your University’s name on Sunday and Monday night for years to come. Don’t be fool about a meaningless game and make it all about people who have benefited enough from these kids. No one is being hurt by them not playing. The game is meaningless.

  41. nimbushex says:
    Dec 19, 2016 1:53 PM
    Just get rid of the 3 year removed from high school rule if this is going to start happening.

    This is what Florio wants. He wants all high school players that are talented to skip college football and go right to the NFL

  42. These players signed a contract to play for a free education. It doesn’t bother me if they choose to sit out. And it also wouldn’t bother me if the school rescinded their scholarship immediately, kick them out, gave them F’s for the semester and told them to pay back the current semester tuition, books, meals, etc. Hey athlete, good luck to you in the real world, now here is what your contract breach will cost you.

  43. Great on point article!! The NCAA is the biggest monopoly in the world. The Indians who sold Manhatten got a better deal that college
    football and basketball players get.
    Stop the hypocrsy….pay the players ….if you want give them 30
    percent ( NFL players get 50 percent or thereabouts ) and charge them
    for their schooling…..the players would be way ahead and people can
    stop arguing that they get scholarship. The trinkets for New York
    were worth more than the damn scholarships.

  44. If it were my son in that position I would, point blank, tell them to leave. Honestly, I would do so as the head coach. Because I have integrity. Any teammate who doesn’t understand isn’t good enough to have their opinion matter. All the players in the NFL (outside of the guys who’ve been banking $10m+/yr for a decade) realize they only get roughly 3 years to trade their body for money…why wouldn’t they protect their ability to earn their chosen livelihood? You think NFL guys will think lesser of them because they “quit on their team” when they regularly sit starters in the 4th preseason game or the second half of week 17 after they’ve clinched? lol – you’re crazy if you think NFL guys care about a guy protecting their investment.

  45. While it sucks if you’re his teammate or a fan of the particular school of whatever player decides to skip the bowl game, it’s really hard to argue against it. That’s not even to say I support it, because the selfish side of me wants to see all of the best players play, but at the same time it’s really hard to argue against a player looking out for his own interests when the school is only focused on theirs.

    As for skipping the whole season, it will take all of one or two top prospects to not pan out at the pro level before those guys are only hurting their own stock. Clarett and Mike Williams (USC) are probably not the best examples to use, but it will only take a team or two blowing a first rounder on a guy who skips a year of football for that plan to backfire.

  46. You always have to stir the pot with your pet peeve college players getting paid . They ARE getting paid, tuition, housing, food, medical not to mention many perks . The money generated in the 2 to 4 yrs of a players college career also supports the many other college sports that do not make money. So Florio where are you going to come up with the money to keep those sports running or are you going to get rid of them ??

    Biggest point is these two guys are letting their teammates down .

  47. If u have a Netflix account watch the documentary called
    $chooled The Price Of College Sports
    Even the guy who started the NCAA himself and termed the word Student Athelete making sure even through the court system there is no way that students get paid from schools boosters or individual endorsements which in my opinion would be the easiest solution. Don’t have the schools or boosters who lets face it pay the kids anyway let atheletes if good enough sign endorsement deals while in college so that way they make money in a legit fashion and at the same time none of the $ comes from nobody affiliated with the college.
    But at the end of the doc even that guy who single handily made it so there is no way college kids can receive any money at all while schools make millions upon millions coaches are the highest paid employees of each state tgeir school is in. Coaches get paid millions from sneaker companies like basketball where Nike or other shoe companies pay Coach K for example something like 3 mil a year for his team to wear their shoes.
    But back to the guy who started the NCAA and condemned student atheletes from getting paid for 30 or so years has changed his tune wrote a book and dies speaking events talking now about how he was wrong the system was wrong and athletes should get paid. Either way it’s a very well done doc and I recommend especially to those against college kids from getting paid to go on Netflix and check it out.

  48. I put a link up but if that’s not kosher on this site than the doc is on YouTube. Either go there and enter the title Schooled The Pruce Of College Sports or like I did enter it into google click the video tab on the tops and the working full length link is the one w Jeff Locke Kicker UCLA on it and is the 5th video down from the top. It just so happens to have a kicker on the front if that link but it has tons of well respected tv personalities and former players in the documentary.

  49. college bowl games are a joke.
    You have teams that are 6 & 6 playing in these meaningless games.
    The only games that appeal to fans (not associated with colleges/universities) are the ones involving the top 4 teams. You will most likely see all those players participating because those games are real.
    The exhibition games like , the Miami Beach bowl or the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia bowl are a Joke. Players involved in the joke bowls should absolutely sit out to protect themselves from injury and prepare for the draft.

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