College football coaches don’t want college football players thinking about playing professional football. Which creates tension between some college football coaches and the NFL scouts that annually sniff around practice, distracting the college football players from helping their current teams win as many games as possible.
So why would the NFL enter the business, via the TV network it owns and operates, of showcasing the selection of college football programs by high school football players? At that phase, it actually helps college football.
Even though only a small percentage of college football players ever make it to the NFL, the multi-billion-dollar college football machine is fueled by an endless supply of willing participants who bust their asses in exchange for the wholesale cost of “an education.” The vague promise of a career in the NFL facilitates that process.
Every high school football player who is good enough to be recruited by major college programs surely has considered at some point playing in the NFL. Many very much want to play in the NFL sooner than later (regardless of whether they’re good enough), but they’re barred by a three-year rule that forces them to treat college football like the NFL’s minor leagues. By providing high school players with a national platform for declaring precisely where they’ll support the multi-billion-dollar college football machine in exchange for the wholesale cost of “an education,” the NFL accentuates the winking and nodding that necessarily occurs when a high school player is persuaded to, essentially, major in football at a given school.
And that’s really what these kids are doing — majoring in football. But the schools never call it that, either because they’re still trying to sell the fiction of the student-athlete, or because the placement rate really, really sucks.
The NFL’s decision to shine a spotlight on and attach a megaphone to the act of picking up one of two hats and declaring an intention to attend a certain school cements the “majoring in football” concept implicitly, while also laying the foundation for doing the same thing when free agents choose their next teams, which the NFL quietly has wanted to do for years. Which makes it good for the NFL and good for college football, as long as they can eventually iron out the scheduling glitches.