UCLA quarterback takes flak for speaking the truth about college football

Getty Images

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen recently made waves by articulating hard but obvious truths about college football, a multi-billion-dollar business built on the outdated notion that football is an extracurricular activity. The fact that Rosen is catching some heat for it doesn’t make his remarks any less accurate.

Look, football and school don’t go together,” Rosen told Matt Hayes of BleacherReport.com. “They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.”

Appearing on Wednesday’s Dan Patrick Show, UCLA coach Jim Mora said he doesn’t know why Rosen mentioned Alabama. It likely wasn’t malicious or gratuitous; Rosen was simply making his point by pointing to the program that currently is viewed as the best in the nation. Rosen’s comments apply equally to all major-college programs.

“It’s not that they shouldn’t be in school,” Rosen told Hayes. “Human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules. No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule, and go to school. It’s not that some players shouldn’t be in school; it’s just that universities should help them more — instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible.

“Any time any player puts into school will take away from the time they could put into football. They don’t realize that they’re getting screwed until it’s too late. You have a bunch of people at the universities who are supposed to help you out, and they’re more interested in helping you stay eligible. At some point, universities have to do more to prepare players for university life and help them succeed beyond football. There’s so much money being made in this sport. It’s a crime to not do everything you can to help the people who are making it for those who are spending it.”

Amen to that. Complaints about players not being paid routinely are met with reminders that they get a free education. But if they can’t take full advantage of that education due to the demands of football, are they really getting what they bargained for?

Of course, the eventual NFL payday can go a long way toward rectifying that problem.

“Some do [get paid to play in the NFL], absolutely,” Rosen said. “What about those who don’t? What did they get for laying their body on the line play after play while universities make millions upon millions? People criticize when guys leave early for the NFL draft, and then rip them when some guys who leave early don’t get drafted. ‘Why did you leave school if you weren’t going to get drafted?’ I’ll tell you why: Because for a lot of guys, there is no other option. They were either leaving early [for the NFL] or flunking out. To me, that’s a problem within the system and the way we’re preparing student-athletes for the future away from football. Everyone has to be part of the process.”

If you doubt any of Rosen’s comments, go watch Last Chance U on Netflix. The excellent, gritty, and very real documentary focuses on a junior college that has one goal (beyond winning the JUCO national championship every year): Getting players to Division I programs so that they can eventually get to the NFL. Education is an afterthought, with the primary objective focused on getting the player to a 2.5 GPA so that he’ll be eligible to attend a major college.

The reaction by some to Rosen is somewhat surprising. Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones, who once claimed that he didn’t go to Ohio State to “play school” told Rosen via Twitter, “Chill bro, play school.” Others, from former NFL quarterback Danny Kanell to current Rams backup Dan Orlovsky, have challenged Rosen’s opinions.

But here’s where Rosen is right on the money: For most kids in the 18-21 age range, full-time college football and full-time college education don’t easily mix. I took a part-time job on campus while in college and quickly realized that I didn’t have the capacity at that age to work part of the time and study most of the time. For football players, the physical demands, the mental demands, the total time invested, the travel, the games, and everything else distract from the “student” aspect of what started as “student-athlete” and is now, for most major schools, an unpaid professional athlete who must spend his free time dragging his ass to classes that he really doesn’t want to take in order to remain eligible to keep playing football for free in the hopes of eventually getting paid to play football.

Until that system fundamentally changes, this basic reality of life as a football player at a major school won’t. And kudos to Rosen for ditching the cliches and opting for candor.

64 responses to “UCLA quarterback takes flak for speaking the truth about college football

  1. This checks out. However once you get into the lower level colleges and D2, I could seeing it being much more complicated.

  2. I think this kid is right on.
    NCAA doesn’t do enough to help these kids be prepared to use that education once their playing careers are over. How many stories do we hear of athletes filing bankruptcy because they run out of money post career? Why? Cause they don’t have any skills to apply in the workforce. No long term planning.
    If these kids were prepared to enter the workforce they could retire earlier which would reduce the risk of CTE.
    The piece on Alabama is spot on. We all know that staying eligible is more important that staying on the Dean’s list for most kids who view the NFL as their goal. This is why Ohio State and Alabama is always in the top 5 and Stanford, Vanderbilt, Duke and the other academic institutions out there. All 5 star recruits are eligible to play there because they’ll put anyone on scholarship.

  3. Half of these illiterates do not deserve a scholarship! The key word “scholar” is part of that title. I believe Dexter Manley went to college….couldn’t read when he retired. The term “Student-athlete” is a frickin joke. Your OL are usually the smartest people in the NFL…why? They usually actually “graduate”! Dak Prescott, 4 year student…Zeke, not a 4 year student…see the difference in intelligence? Common sense? These punks can’t do full time college because they are generally morons. Couldn’t handle a full time job either.

  4. College work is tough enough. Playing football and going to college is that much harder. Not being at college level, trying to do college work, and playing college football is impossible – except in the state of Alabama. Josh Rosen isn’t saying anything that anybody didn’t know. He just said things that people don’t want to hear. The NCAA is about as corrupt as the International Olympic Committee. They level sanctions and destroy small programs but protect the “elite”.

  5. I’m surprised none of the small schools with accelerated degree programs have gotten together and started a league. Or nobody has started a league and linked it to such schools. College could easily be cut down to 2.5 years with classes one night a week for 4 hours. More time to workout and concentrate on football and if you don’t make the NFL… you still have a degree in half the time.

  6. There’s a need for a league to challenge college football. A league where players can play for up to 5 years and get paid for it.

  7. Again these comments miss.the 1000s of students at low end schools whose programs don’t require a as large of a commitment. Without the Emporia States of the world, lots of young men don’t have a chance at a degree. Good enough to play beyond HS but not good enough for BCS. Before we decry and call to tear down the system we must know what the fix looks like and there are lots of moving parts. As for Risen, his experience is with one program, not all of them.

  8. Developmental league for kids who don’t want to attend college. They get paid to play, but they must remain in the league 4 seasons.

    Also, guys who complete college and don’t get drafted can be placed in the league by a NFL team. It’s a Farm System for NFL, it provides pay and another option for the players, and it still leaves College Football as the best/fastest route to the NFL.

  9. @liberalsruineverything

    The kid speaks the truth. This is the reality of the NCAA and its broken system.

    The Drumph supporters who scream, “fake news” or “the media ruins everything” everytime they don’t like the message has led us to where we are as a nation.

    Donkeys who can’t accept the truth, the facts and the reality of what is happening right in front of them are the true danger to themselves and those around them.

    Shake yourselves.

  10. As someone who played college baseball at an NAIA school, Rosen is 100% correct. There were classes I needed to graduate that were only offered in the spring, and were typically afternoon classes – that meant that I had to wait until my eligibility was done or I voluntary gave up baseball to be able to take the classes. Again – that’s at a NAIA school were Baseball was a revenue taker, not a generator. I cannot imagine the toll it takes on Football or Basketball at a Power 5 conference, let alone the other conferences.

    By the way, this is why realignment is so tough. It’s hard enough with football or basketball, but when you get into other sports, and you’re taking commercial flights all over the country for your conference, it’s impossible to actually be in class and learn.

    The kid is dead-on correct.

  11. The problem will always be around, and fixing the N.C.A.A is nice in concept, or still doesn’t create the cure. We are all consumers of football, either by reading and clicking articles, watching games via cable or satellite, streaming or other. Purchasing merchandise, so on and so forth. In reality we are the problem by consistently forking over money, and generally paying attention to it, and by no means am I saying I don’t, it’s just obvious that it’s the only fix for the entire thing…from college forward.

    It won’t happen, but like most things, we just bandaid instead of stopping the problem from ever happening.

  12. Josh Rosen is spot on. I also watched Last Chance U. Most of those kids didn’t want anything to do with school. They just want to play football.

  13. So, am I supposed to be impressed with Rosen “speaking the truth?” Maybe someone should remind him everything he does on the field and says off it goes on his pro resume. If I am a head coach or QB coach, how in the hell can I have confidence that he will embrace the playbook? Just look at all his crap off the field last year and I would say that Rosen has read the Ryan Leaf/Johnny Manziel book on how to ruin your NFL career before it even starts. Honestly, the kid was a frosh wonder, now, just a wonder!

  14. He’s like that Google engineer that was fired this week for writing truthfully about the differences between men and women. Sadly, in an age of lies the person telling the truth about reality will always be attacked and punished.

  15. Rosen also made a point–schools have a vested interest in directing players to the easiest majors so they can stay eligible. Maybe Rosen means sociology, but you can find worse things–then when the player doesn’t make the NFL, his degree means little since he spent most of his time learning nothing that could get him a job. OR in Dexter Manley’s case–even how to read apparently.

    Remember Robert Smith RB–when he was at Ohio State he wanted to take a summer chemistry class as he was pre-med–and got a lecture from an assistant coach about it was a waste of his time. I believe there was pretty harsh fallout–but it was the most honest a school could be at the time. Smith finished 8 years in the nfl, 2 ACL tears, and got out when he wanted to do something else.

    Or go to North Carolina where most of the classes for athletes were independent study and they didn’t even do the work for it. But they still played!

  16. I’d be interested to see what % of colleges actually profit from their football program.

    Although I don’t disagree with him on principle, this kid seems to be painting with an awfully broad brush when probably the experience he describes is pretty narrow. I played ball in college (albeit a small college) and was able to manage my schedule just fine.

    There simply wasn’t much time to sit around and be idle which appears to be what many of the athletes on “Last Chance U” choose to spend their time doing.

    Perhaps teaching time management as opposed to lightening the load is in order.

  17. I was a college athlete (football) and a computer science major at a Pac-12 school until I got to upper division courses that required 4hr labs in the afternoon. My coach sat me down and said “It’s either computer labs, or your scholarship”…..Hello Economics Major. These sacrifices are made every year by student-athletes. Rosen is spot on.

  18. What he fails to mention is that majority of current Football players would not be able to even go to college if it wasn’t for their athleticism or football skills. so yes…
    1. college, for most high-level athletes is perceived as just a stepping stone to the NFL
    2. most of these players dont consider college for the education it can provide and focus solely on football. so when majority does not make it in to the nfl, they have nothing to show for 3 years of college.
    3. I dont believe for a second that they cant do both (football and study) it just means less partying and more staying in school for full 4y. Is it hard? .. yes! ..but life is hard and can be done.

  19. There is absolutely some truth in what he says, but it’s not 100% the truth.

    There are plenty of players that graduate in 3 years from big time programs, with legit degrees.

    Just because Rosen has trouble fitting hot tub time in his room into his schedule doesn’t mean it’s a flaw in the system.

    I know people that coached and taught him. He’s a spoiled, entitled prick. His problem is that if it doesn’t work for him, then it’s everyone else’s problem. Sacrifice isn’t something he knows about.

  20. I played three years of division 1A football, graduated with honors, and worked for the campus post office to make interest payments on loans. If I’m supposed to feel bad for kids that don’t qualify academically to attend their university and graduate with a degree and without student loan debt, you’re higher than Josh Gordon.

  21. Higher Education needs to get rid of Division One football (and basketball). These schools should offer a license fee to a pro football minor league to use their names. The minor league teams could keep the university name, uniforms, and colors; this should allow the fan base to transfer their loyalty to the new teams. I bet that the elite football teams such as Alabama, Ohio State, USC, etc. would prosper under such an arrangement and it would provide benefits to the school without maintaining the fiction of student athletes and shield the schools from the corruption that goes with the billions of dollars in college football. The mid-level schools (such as my undergraduate alma mater San Diego State) would likely fail under this arrangement but they are already losing money on football and using student fees to subsidize their operations

  22. How about they just not play football, study like crazy, and pay through the nose to attend college like the rest of us?

    Oh, you don’t like that? Then why did you decide to go this route only to complain about it.

  23. Should just make ” football time” into credits and let that count towards future class credits so they can complete their degree after their football eligibility is up. Pay them a stipend per football credit.

    If a kid plays for the college but doesn’t make the pros he can still get his degree. 4 year degrees completed in 4 years have been a thing of the past for a couple decades now

  24. While I’m a big college football fan, it should have long been phased out for a real minor league football system. I don’t know how you’d do it, but kids going to school and playing at the same time is quite difficult, and many players are not there for the college experience. That Last Chance U show is a great example of what’s really going on out there and many of those players 1-track mind. In a true minor league system, they all could make a little bit of money and weed out the ones who aren’t cut out for the big league while not having a farce of them getting educations as everyone’s #1 goal, either the coach who could care to the administrators who don’t care to the kids themselves who don’t care.

  25. Rosen is not wrong. You could look at any of the top schools and see kids who, academically, would not be able to get into the schools they play for. Football is not alone – look at college basketball. Those kids spend a lot more time on the road than a football team does and the college basketball season plays out over the Fall and Spring semesters.

  26. At the Alabamas & UCLAs & Kentuckys of the NCAA, in hoops & Football, these “student” athletes degrees are basically in the sport they are playing.
    Their professors are the coaches, their deans the ADs.
    Their schedules are so full, their extracurricular activities are classes. They are only being “kept eligible” because their coaches only care about the player helping them win, which helps them (the coaches) stay employed.
    College is not a place to go to JUST get a degree, it’s a place to go to get educated in a field to go WORK in. Their field of work is athletics. These guys are working towards their possible future profession; not getting a degree in Liberal Arts then going on to be a barista at Starbucks because they have a phony degree. That’s the problem Rosen is stating. Too many players are getting fake degrees in other areas they aren’t truly pursuing or even care about, then ending up with nothing, even though they “passed” & stayed eligible for their coaches & have a piece of paper on the wall that says so.

  27. Nice to hear someone experiencing it speak out that college football is more like a plantation system. Schools get free labor and most of the labor doesn’t want to be there but there are no options. At least baseball has minor leagues where players get paid something while they prove themselves without being forced to get an education they don’t want.

  28. Most of these student-athletes have great support systems to lean on at their schools, including
    tutors, athletic dept academic advisers, group study sessions, some online courses, lighter course loads during the season, etc. Not to mention a FREE EDUCATION and full cost of attendance benefits, which puts money in their pockets. No worries about meals or room/board. No real need to have a part-time job. Just play some football, chase girls, and go to class. Hell, I’d welcome a redshirt year and enjoy 5 years of that life. If you still can’t finish your degree on time, many schools now allow these guys to finish later at no cost. Not a bad deal if you can get it!! Like Cardale Jones said, “Just play school”.

  29. College football makes so much money because they have a built in fan base. Take the players out of the colleges and put them into a minor league system and the money will disappear.
    For the kids that have NFL potential they are getting free training and free school. How many of them would be ready right out of high school? They need development somewhere – maybe they’d rather pay to get it. The rules that they have to play in college are a problem. If they could play in the CFL or some other league before going to NFL then that should be an option.
    The vast majority of kids that won’t be playing in the NFL have a choice. Get an education for reduced cost while playing football or quit football and pay full price for your education. Nobody is forcing them to play.

  30. Developmental league for kids who don’t want to attend college. They get paid to play, but they must remain in the league 4 seasons.

    Also, guys who complete college and don’t get drafted can be placed in the league by a NFL team. It’s a Farm System for NFL, it provides pay and another option for the players, and it still leaves College Football as the best/fastest route to the NFL.



    The NFL has this exactly where they want it. A FREE farm system, under the GUISE that these young men are bettering themselves and their lives, even society, with a free education.

    Its a complete farce, and the NCAA is exploiting young men, endangering their quality of life, and making $BILLIONS off it.

  31. I’ve been watching college and pro football for decades, and I think right now is the best football I’ve ever seen. I think the system has been working fine. If Josh Rosen doesn’t want to play college football, nobody is going to miss him, and somebody will replace him. The show goes on. I wouldn’t mind hearing John Elway’s opinion on this matter. He was an Econ major at Stanford. He seems to have survived, and is doing quite well. He’s not running the world, but he’s not starving either.

  32. I’d be interested to see what % of colleges actually profit from their football program.

    I’ve heard that college basketball and the NCAA basketball tournament alone generate enough revenue to cover all NCAA athletics.

    If thats true, imagine how much $$$ football generates.

  33. Rosen is completely right. Maybe back in the old days it was doable, the days back when all you had to do as a student-athlete was show up for a 2-hour practice in the afternoon after you were done with your classes, the days when NFL players took part-time jobs as car salesmen in the offseason and showed up to training camp out of shape and used the camp to get INTO shape. Those days are long gone and being a college athlete at a big-time university these days is a full-time job that starts with workout sessions at 6:00am, continues with film study in the afternoon, not to mention the full-team practice, traveling to far away cities that are sometimes even on the other side of the country, etc etc

  34. College kids need to form a union. That way they have greedy representatives negotiating with greedy universities for a bigger cut of the money. 18 to 21 year old kids have lots of power but little to no negotiating skills. These Division 1 head coaches make 10 times what the President of the United States is paid to run a much bigger organization. Cut their pay and share it with the players.

  35. He’s right about the money being made by most big Division 1 mens football and basketball programs (underlining mens football and basketball), and he’s right about college football players being less then prepared for the real world…but give me a break.
    Tens of thousands of student athletes work just as hard as football players, travel way more than 6 Saturdays per year, have less investment in their sport, less support to be prepared for class and keep their GPAs up, less support from the boosters and community…yet manage to graduate with advanced degrees and become highly successful after sports.
    Rosen may not know it but he is also talking about cultural and societal problems that began and extend well outside of college football.

  36. Something I didn’t see in his rant…..so like…what’s your solution, young man?

    Seriously….what’s the solution if this is a problem?

    Start paying the student athletes? How does that help this situation?

    Get rid of college football and build a minor league? Show of hands for alumni – who wants their college football team to go away?

    So what’s the solution?

  37. If you start paying players, schools like Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Ohio State will be monster schools and most of the smaller tier schools will lose their programs because they can’t afford to pay.

    Maybe some billionaires should start a new professional football league that plays in the summer and hires kids straight out of high school. Give them 4 year contracts and if they’re good enough after said 4 years, they can sign in the NFL, it’ll be good for them because they’ll be free agents and not relegated to rookie deals.

    Leave college football alone.

  38. College kids need to form a union. That way they have greedy representatives negotiating with greedy universities for a bigger cut of the money. 18 to 21 year old kids have lots of power but little to no negotiating skills. These Division 1 head coaches make 10 times what the President of the United States is paid to run a much bigger organization. Cut their pay and share it with the players.

    Good idea smarty. Once they form a union and are paid they are no longer amateurs. Hence they can’t play NCAA football. Just look at how the NBA has declined since they started letting guys in directly from HS. Now they require one year of college which is a joke. NCAA football is necessary. What you don’t seem to realize is that in addition to the opportunity at an education (not sure how this is a bad thing or is somehow oppressive), they have access to world class weight and fitness facilities, top notch coaching and great nutritional resources. Not to mention the tutors.

    College players are not victims. To make them out that way is absurd.

  39. Mora knows why Rosen mentioned Alabama. He also could have named any other school in the SEC. With the exception of Vanderbilt, a legit school, all others are simply football factories and they make a mockery of the word STUDENT-Athlete.

  40. Here is my reality check for Josh Rosen…

    The road to success is LONG AND HARD. What type of entitlement do you feel that you think people should make the road to success easier for you?

    If it was an easy road to the NFL, everyone would be in the NFL.

    Seriously, I am a single father of 3 kids, working full time, living paycheck to paycheck. You think i get to go home and relax when the clock hits 5pm? No i am at home, feeding my kids, helping them with homework, doing laundry, taking care of a lawn, cleaning a house, etc. I literally work from the time i wake up until the time i go to sleep. And only get paid for my time in the office.

    You chose your path, a path that was a gamble. You chose 4 extremely hard years for a chance to potentially have your remaining years be easier.

    You knew what was involved in your path when you signed the letter of intent to UCLA. And well if you didnt, thats not the fault of the college, its the fault of the high school. If the path was to difficult, you shouldnt have chose it.

  41. He is absolutely right.

    The NFL is the cheapest of all the league’s, corrupting college football because they don’t want to take a 21st century approach and develop their own players like MLB. Get ready for no contact (flag) university football coming soon as the CTE lawsuits start flying. Not enough insurance to cover this liability. And Mora’s making millions standing on the sidelines, not puting his health at risk.

  42. In F-1 big money teams will allow young up and coming talent to drive for a lower rung team in order to gain experience, while retaining their rights. Football could do something similar to this with a farm system.

  43. @chc4 while i agree there isn’t a reason to pay athletes on scholarships; I do feel it’s wrong to prevent them from using their fame to make money. From endorsements to autographs it’s wrong to prevent them from earning money. But that’s not the discussion at hand.

    The NCAA should be limited the number of hours per week that coaches demand from students. I worked 30 hours a week and went to school full time with an hour commute. But for Bama to play USC it’s a 4 hour plane ride there, 16 hours before the game (time at hotel ect),4 hour game, 4 hour ride home. That’s 28 hours spent for one game, no film study, no practice, no training time in those world class training facilities. So a 2 hour practice, 2 hours of film study, and 2 hours of training you’re at 30 hours before game day. That’s a lot of time to dedicate

  44. Rosen is getting ripped. This is why encouraging players to speak out is doing them a disservice. There are too many conservative fans and owners who just don’t want to hear it or completely miss (willfully or otherwise) the message. See Kaepernick. Most of the PFT readers here don’t even know WHY he started protesting, just that he “disrespected the flag”. They can’t get past that.

  45. At least set up some kind of collegiate program to get these young men ready to face adulthood head on. Allow courses to be geared towards financial stability, understanding contractual language, and counseling. These are things that a person will need regardless of whether they make the NFL or not.

  46. Rosen is spot on, anyone who’s had to balance the rigours of college coursework and football knows exactly the kind of commitment it takes. People will tell you balancing a job and academics is tough and although it might be, it doesn’t compare. And this comes from experiencing both sides of the coin. You have take-home work from football just like you do from school and in order to play, you must know exactly what you’re doing at all times. It takes a lot of intelligence to play football and some people underestimate how difficult it is to retain all the knowledge, especially at the collegiate level. Schools don’t do a good enough job of preparing kids for life after football and instead of helping athletes prepare for the next steps in life, there’s plenty of student-athletes who are forced into majors with an emphasis on being eligible to play. The NCAA needs to do more for its athletes and make sure these kids have a future beyond the game.

  47. A don’t know what the percentage is, but a lot of these athletes couldn’t pass a GED exam. But this is how it is, college football is an unpaid minor league system for NFL teams.

  48. My comment is awaiting moderation, wow, I didn’t use any bad words and yet I’m getting censored.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!