The How to Judge a College Player Debate – What’s the Best Way to Judge a College Football Player’s Success?

Read Sports Geek’s argument that performance at the collegiate level is the measure by which college athletes should be rated and evaluated, and Loyal Homer’s argument that the players potential to perform in the NFL is a better standard by which to gauge and evaluate them.

When the media’s pre-season All-SEC team was announced at the beginning of the month, there was no surprise seeing Tim Tebow’s name. There was some surprise, though, in the fact that he was NOT the name on top of the list. Somehow, there was another player in the SEC who garnered more of the 64 votes than Tebow did (granted, it was only one more vote, but it was enough to cause a buzz!). That person was defensive back Eric Berry of the Tennessee Volunteers.

Berry’s place at the top of the list is not without justification. He was a unanimous All-American last year, and is expected to set a new NCAA record for interception return yards very early in the 2009 season. The surprise lies in the fact that Tim Tebow, a favorite to win the 2009 Heisman Trophy award (which would be his second) and the leader of the reigning national champion Florida Gators, has been a dominant presence in the media since becoming the first player in NCAA history to both rush for AND pass for at least 20 touchdowns in the same year, 2007. He was expected to receive the most votes.

When considering the accomplishments Tebow has already racked up, add to those accomplishments the expectations for Tebow and the Gators this year – I do not think anyone would have disagreed if Tebow was named a unanimous selection. So you can imagine our surprise when he not only fell short of the unanimous vote, but also was not even the top vote getter on the list!

It made us wonder what, exactly, was the criteria these voters were using when they cast their ballots?

There can be little doubt that Tim Tebow is one of the most accomplished players in college football history. He has two national championships, has one Heisman award, and is a favorite this year to add to both of those totals. Eric Berry cannot boast a resume like that. What Berry CAN claim, at least in many media circles, is that he has a greater likelihood to move on and be successful in the professional ranks.

Berry is already considered to be a top prospect for the NFL Draft next year. His head coach at Tennessee, Lane Kiffin, is a former NFL head coach and agrees that Berry will be a very likely success at the next level. For Tim Tebow, on the other hand, expectations are not as high. Many believe that Tebow will move on to the NFL, but few expect him to continue as a successful quarterback once he leaves the college game.

So the question posed to Sports Geek and Loyal Homer today is:

Which is the better criteria by which to evaluate a college player, college success or pro potential?

NCAA Football is generally considered to be a feeder system into the professional ranks. Does that mean that a player’s potential to take the next step should be the key benchmark by which to rate their success? On the other hand, is a players ability to produce and succeed within the college game the better standard, even if that player is not likely to see continued success once they move on to the professional game?

Sports Geek will argue that the better measure is the player’s collegiate resume. While the NCAA football programs are viewed unofficially as a feeder system into the NFL, they are NOT minor league organizations. NCAA football is a separate entity from the NFL, and accomplishments and credentials garnered while in that game should be evaluated on their own merit, not how they would translate into a professional game.

Loyal Homer will argue that a player’s professional potential is the better barometer for evaluating their talent. Athletes at the highest level of college football are expected to move on to the NFL, so that naturally should be the standard by which those players are evaluated and compared against one another. If fans and the media expect those players to move to the next level of the game, then the best method for rating those players is to determine their likelihood of success.

As for me, I’m going to try and answer the question of what happened to Tim Tebow’s shirt?

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