College football players will keep making business decisions, despite those who would rather they don’t

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Shamrock Series - Notre Dame v Wisconsin
Getty Images

Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard sparked a firestorm of criticism on Saturday for their public lamentations about some college football players choosing not to play in bowl games that have no consequence to the pursuit of a national championship. The pushback that they received for their antiquated thinking shows how far the mainstream attitudes have come when it comes to players with NFL prospects preserving their ability to finally get paid for their talents, abilities, and sacrifices.

Finally, in the broad spectrum of business decisions made about the billion-dollar business that is college football, players have the ability to make their own business decisions. Finally, fans and media realize that those who profit from unpaid labor — including those employed by the four-letter network that has made a nine-figure investment in college football — have a clear interest in coercing players who have nothing to gain and everything to lose to play one more game, and no interest in ensuring that those who may suffer serious injury protect their own earning capacity.

It’s not about loving football. It’s not about the joy of competition. It’s about providing one more burst of entertainment with no compensation for doing so. Some want football players who, barred from entry to the NFL by a corrupt system that forces them to play college football for three years before being eligible to be drafted, will willingly participate in one more game, one last time. No matter the very real risks that they assume to their ability to finally get fair compensation by playing in that one extra game.

How quickly they forget about Jaylon Smith, whose torn ACL in the Fiesta Bowl caused him to plummet to round two of the draft, and to constantly try to play with a knee that never was quite the same. How conveniently they ignore the game of musical chairs in which coaches like Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley have freely engaged, abandoning their teams before the season was over to grab the millions of dollars that another program dangled in their faces.

Everyone involved in the sport of college football makes business decisions. They’ve been making business decisions for decades. Why should those players who have performed at a level sufficient to set themselves up for a professional career that will pay them to play football not be making business decisions, too?

Unless and until college football pays the players fair value, college football and those who broadcast the games should never, ever shame the men who consciously choose not to play one last game for free. Not when they’ll be risking draft position at best and long-term prospects at worst if the worst-case scenario happens in that one last game.

It’s refreshing, frankly, that so many saw directly through the self-interest that echoed through the statements made by Herbstreit and Howard about “entitlement” or whatever. The best of the best college players aren’t entitled to choose to withhold services. They’ve earned that right.

They’ve earned the right to protect themselves. They’ve earned the right to preserve their ability to get paid to play football at the next level. They’ve earned the right to say “enough” when it comes to rolling the dice on their own futures.

That won’t stop random voices who would prefer to have the best players keep playing for free to find new and creative ways to lament the fact that some players have decided that they won’t risk the brass ring that they’re about to grasp in the name of grossly outdated boola-boola ideals about putting their bodies at risk for the love of the game or whatever other cliche can be thrown around in the name of persuading them to risk losing it all, in the name of giving ESPN and its audience a “better” game.

But it has caused those who appreciate the basic business realities of football to understand why it makes no sense to risk a torn ACL or some other serious injury. That’s the most refreshing aspect of it. Those who would be entertained by the best players playing one more game are happy to forego their presence because they realize that, for those players, the time has come to pull the plug on feeding a college-football machine that has never given them fair value. If it’s good enough for those who watch bowl games, it should be good enough for those who stage them, and who broadcast them.

Maybe, once the next bowl season arrives, those who broadcast the games will choose to accept the fact that those who have fueled a system that gives them peanuts in return will think twice before trying to paint those players as not loving football. They’ve proven that they love football. There’s nothing wrong with them choosing to protect their ability to love football as NFL players, where the game will love them back by, for example, giving them a proper salary.

22 responses to “College football players will keep making business decisions, despite those who would rather they don’t

  1. Millions of us grew up with amateur athletics (college athletes) and PROFESSIONAL supports.

    Today’s reality is far different and takes away from the allure of collegiate competition.

    Tip: football players in competitive leagues are treated on campus like gods.

    They get all the perks and now all the goodie loop holes.

  2. Once these kids are getting PAID the universities will have something to say about opt outs.

  3. The players have every right to protect their futures. If you were in their shoes , what would you do?

  4. As they should. As soon as the season ends, every coach is on the phone with their agents looking for a raise or a new job. Everyone loves the American way until they decide to be hypocrites about somebody else exercising it.

  5. First off I believe college players should be paid more than they are. If you don’t count their tuition room and board and per diem as payment of course. But what about kid who has no chance to make it to the next level that plays his heart out to block for or defend for a player who potentially has a chance to make it to the pros? If me I’d play my ass off for him if for nothing more than to thank him. If only these “pros” had the same respect for the people that got them there.

  6. Not BuyingIt says:
    January 1, 2022 at 9:58 pm
    Millions of us grew up with amateur athletics (college athletes) and PROFESSIONAL supports.

    Today’s reality is far different and takes away from the allure of collegiate competition.

    Tip: football players in competitive leagues are treated on campus like gods.

    They get all the perks and now all the goodie loop holes.


  7. Let’s be clear about this: guys like Herbstreit are using their platform to pressure players to risk their future earning capacity and provide unpaid labor to generate revenue to cover Herb’s salary. Herb should donate part of his salary to Matt Corral.

  8. As a volunteer firefighter, if I die in a fire am I hero? Or stupid for losing my life for free to help out the tax payers?

    “Sorry sir or ma’am, its not in my best interest run into the burning building for free and risk my life because then I cant work and provide for my family. Hang in there, the professionals are on their way.”

    Extreme take, no kidding. But nobody is putting a gun and forcing me to do it. Nor is anyone pointing a gun and forcing these kids to play college football. Point being … If you’re committed to something, commit to it! Don’t half *** it!

    Side note: lets give volunteer fire fighters million dollar NIL deals.

  9. Herbstreit and Howard telling the kids to get off of their lawn. They came off like imbeciles.

  10. Excellent article. Kirk Homerstreit was way off base and I’m surprised Desmond Howard followed his way of thinking but he may have been influenced by the producer in his ear. Homerstriets asinine speech how college players don’t love the game anymore was flat out idiotic. And Homerstreit should be fired for openly being a Homer on the Broadcast of the Rose Bowl. This was not the Ohio State Broadcasting Network, this was ESPN. That was a great game by all players busting their butts on the field. They are sitting out as you correctly pointed out to protect your value for the NFL. I dont blame them one bit. I played college sports and If I was in that position to be a 1st round pick I most likely made the same business decision.

  11. A capitalistic system has made America great. It’s the perfect system that rewards hard work. Tell us how any communist countries athletes are doing financially.

  12. At some point, NIL deals will REQUIRE kids to play in the bowl games to meet escalators.

  13. These kids were giving a scholarship to attend the college of their choice due to their athletic ability. To PLAY.

    If they do not fulfill that requirement, they should owe the school the expenses for the years they attended.

  14. I completely get the players not wanting to risk their futures in games of no consequence, but where will it end? Next we’ll see players opting out of the rest of the season if their team takes one too many L’s.

  15. Herb or could probably float the bill to these kids if they get injured. He’s arguing for the sport/job that got him rich. He’s a hypocrite, if the best players play in the games he broadcast, more people watch, he gets more money. Talk is cheap.

  16. …And NFL teams will continue to make business decisions re: re: kids who bail on their team in the height of competition.

    it’s a 2-way street.

    for elite players, they will get away with it

    others, will be costly.

  17. I love Kirk Herbstreit. He’s the best. The risks are much different for every player. Some guys, like Herbstreit, grew up in affluent families, and received decent educations that they could parlay into decent jobs if their NFL career didn’t work out. Some of their moms never worked a day in their lives. Then there are those who grew up in poverty, never knew their father, and their mothers worked 2-3 jobs to try to support the family. They also have siblings that may never get an opportunity to go to college because they’d have to work to help support the family. Some guys have grandparents that left them a large trust fund. Everyone is different. It’s up to the colleges to prepare for this. Nick Saban rotates lots of guys in and out, so if one of his starters skips a bowl game, he has plenty of experienced kids who can step in and play. Also, all that rotating gives more players a chance to get on film and get exposure to NFL scouts, so it ends up benefitting the kids come draft day. I call that a solution, not a problem. Think of it like this. If Michael Jordan loses a million dollars in a casino one day, he’s still a billionaire. If I lose $2,000 in a casino, I’m screwed. Gambling and risk taking is the decision for each individual to make in a responsible manner. It would be highly irresponsible for some kids to play in bowl games. If I were a scout, I’d steer clear of highly irresponsible kids.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.