The Leaving College Early For The Pros Debate – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

November 12, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that talented college athletes should go pro as soon as they are eligible, and Loyal Homer’s argument that the benefits to staying in school are.

Matthew Stafford, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford were all viewed as marquis college quarterbacks from the 2008 football season. Each was eligible for early entry into the NFL Draft, and each was projected to be a high-draft selection. With millions of dollars at stake, the temptation to go pro early could be very strong!

Matthew Stafford chose the NFL. As a reward for his decision, he received a contract with $41.7M in GUARANTEED money. On the down-side, he has to play quarterback for the Detroit Lions, a job that has already been tried and failed by the likes of Daunte Culpepper, Jon Kitna, Joey Harrington, Jeff Garcia, Charlie Batch, Gus Frerotte, Rodney Peete, Frank Reich, Ty Detmer, Stoney Case (who?!), Scott Mitchell, well… you get the point. Stafford’s job will not be an easy one, to say the least!

On the other hand, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford decided to return to their respective college teams for one more season, foregoing the immediate prospect of millions in salary to chase a different prize – a national championship (and the Heisman Trophy). The decision has not been a bad one for McCoy so far, whose Texas Longhorns are undefeated and sit third in the current BCS rankings. But, things have not worked out as well for his Oklahoma Sooners counterpart, Bradford. Bradford’s decision to stay in college may have been more costly, as he has only played in one full game all season due to shoulder injuries. It is true that he looked very impressive in the few instances where he played, but the lack of any substantial playing time may impact his long-term professional value. Likewise, his injury has cost his team several games, and subsequently cost them the opportunity to play for the BCS National Championship this season, a key reason Bradford returned in the first place.

It is a question that every NFL and NBA prospect especially must face during their time in college. For some, the decision to stay in the NCAA or go pro is simply a matter of trying to maximize their professional value. Staying in college is only worthwhile to them if it means the prospect of even more favorable ratings and reviews in the next NFL Draft, rather than the current one. For others, it is about not wanting to leave college behind without a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Former Ohio State safety Mike Doss was a standout football player at every level of the game. He won championships in his Pop Warner leagues and as a high school star at Ohio’s Canton McKinley (one of the schools in the GREATEST area for high school football in the country!!!). He was again part of a championship team as his high school Bulldogs won both the state and national titles. In 2002, Doss came back for his fifth year of eligibility at Ohio State so he could try one more time for a National Championship at the collegiate level. His decision paid off, as his Buckeyes went on to defeat the heavily favored Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl.

That same decision did not work out so well for several members of the 2007 Michigan Wolverines. After a very exciting season in 2006 where the Wolverines nearly reached the National Championship Game (if not for a loss to Ohio State in the final game of the season), running back Mike Hart, offensive lineman Jake Long, and quarterback Chad Henne all decided to return for one more season at Michigan in the hopes of winning the National Championship (or any bowl game for that matter) and to get a win over Ohio State. Instead of realizing the dream, the Wolverines lost the season opener to Appalachian State in one of the greatest upsets in college football history, as well as three other games that season (including another loss at the hands of the Buckeyes). There were no championship celebrations in Michigan that season, which left Long, Hart, and Henne frustrated and very disappointed.

There are risks and rewards to both options, but which is the better option to choose? If given the opportunity, should talented college players leave college early, as soon as they are eligible?

To tackle this issue, Sports Geek will argue that the better choice is to go pro early, while Loyal Homer will argue that players should return to college and finish their career before going to the next level.

To stay, or not to stay – THAT is the question!

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The Leaving College Early For The Pros Debate – An Education Provides Real Value

November 12, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s argument that capable college athletes should forgo their education for a career in the professional leagues.

I know the popular answer is going to be “Take the money and run.” The four writers here at TSD have never been in a situation like those that star college football players face after being in college for three years. We do not know what we would do. And believe me, my heart breaks for guys like Sam Bradford. He really seems to be one of the good guys and I hate that his season has been essentially ruined by injury. He bypassed millions of dollars to come back to try and win a championship in Norman. But LONG TERM, the best thing for the individual is to return to school.

According to the National Football Players Association’s website, the average career length of an NFL player lasts around three and a half years. Basically, that means for every Clay Matthews (19 years), there is a Mr. Irrelevant. If a player leaves school early and the NFL career does not work out, what does he have to fall back on? Even if the player does have a lengthy career, what is he going to do once he retires without a degree? Sure, he could go back to school to finish his degree. Many say they intend to do that. You may say, “Well, he’s wealthy and he doesn’t need to work.” But retired NFL players do not work for the money. They work to stay active. We have all heard our parents preach this and we will preach it to our kids when they get to that age – it is very important to get that degree!

Bleacher Fan mentioned Mike Doss in the intro. Another guy that comes to mind is Matt Leinart. Leinart came back to Southern Cal as a fifth year senior. He wanted the chance to make college football history by winning a third consecutive national championship. He gave up millions for, as he called it, “$950 a month” and a chance to win another championship. It did not quite turn out that way for Leinart, as his Trojans lost in the BCS championship game to Texas in one of the greatest games I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Financially, however, the money was still there when he was drafted the following year by the Arizona Cardinals with the tenth overall pick. Sure, he was not the first overall pick, but he still signed a six-year deal worth a maximum value of $50.8 million, including $14 million guaranteed. I will grant you that he has not exactly panned out yet in the NFL, but at least he is getting a fat check. And, he always has that degree. He will not have to go bagging groceries after his career is over!

What is wrong with being the big man on campus? A senior star college football player probably never has to buy a drink at the local bar. He probably is one of the most popular guys on campus. He probably has all the girls wanting to go out with him (which is a good thing only if he does not have a girlfriend). How many times does one get to experience that in a lifetime? Responsibility and life can wait! Why not enjoy the senior year of college? It only comes along once!

Yes, it is hard to turn down the millions! But it is impossible to put a price tag on what can be experienced as a senior in college. And, you cannot put a price tag on that diploma!

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The Definition of Great Debate, College Football Edition – Made From the Best Stuff on Earth

July 9, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument that swagger defines great and Sports Geek’s argument that statistical dominance defines great.

Recently, our friend Andrea Adelson at the Orlando Sentinel posed a question to her readers: Which college football team in the last nine years would currently ranks as the “Team of the Decade?”

There have been some outstanding teams over the past nine years, including the 2005 Texas Longhorns, the 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes, the 2004 USC Trojans, and Adelson’s pick, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.

During our production meeting last week we here at TSD discussed the merits of her list, and out of that discussion came an interesting debate topic for us…

What is the best criteria by which to measure the success of a college football team?

Sports Geek will argue that statistical dominance is the key (big surprise), and Loyal Homer will argue that swagger and attitude are what separates the men from the boys.

For me the answer is much simpler than stats or attitude. It all boils down to talent and success of the players at the next level, the NFL.

Keep in mind, we’re not debating what it takes to be a good college player, we are talking about choosing the “BEST” team, and just like gourmet meals are made from the best ingredients, the best team is made up of the best players.

Statistics and swagger are good, but they are merely by-products of talent, and they don’t always tell a true story. For example, the 2004 National Champion USC Trojans didn’t even crack the top-10 in total offense. You know who did? The Toledo Rockets and the Bowling Green Falcons, both out of the Mid-American Conference. Does that mean that the MAC actually had two schools that were better than USC that year? I don’t think so.

As another example, who was the best running back from the class of 2005? I bet you said Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, didn’t you? (That’s okay, so did I.) But, he wasn’t statistically the top rusher of the year. He was actually third behind DeAngelo Williams of Memphis and Jerome Harrison of Washington State.

Surely, then, he was at least the top scorer of 2005, right?! Wrong again. In this little statistic, he doesn’t show up until eighth on the list. In fact, he wasn’t even the top scoring running back for his own school! That title actually belonged to LenDale White.

My point here is that statistics can be misleading, or that quality is more important than quantity. What is not misleading is the ability for a player (or a group of players) to consistently do what needs to be done in order to remain competitive for extended periods of time, at ANY level of competition.

Think about the teams I mentioned above as some of the best from the past decade. What made them all great was the fact that they were populated by the best players of that time. The 2001 Hurricanes had Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, and Kellen Winslow Jr. The 2002 Buckeyes had Maurice Clarett (ahh, what could have been), A.J. Hawk, Michael Jenkins, Chris Gamble, Mike Doss, and Will Smith. The 2004 Trojans had Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Lofa Tatupu, LenDale White, and Eric Wright. The 2005 Longhorns had Vince Young, Selvin Young, Limas Sweed, Brian Orakpo, and Justin Blalock.

These players dominated in college, and (with the exception of Clarett) moved on to successful NFL careers as well, and those names only make up a fraction of the total number of NFL caliber players who contributed to the success of those respective teams. In fact, as Adelson point, the ’01 Hurricanes actually sent 38 players from the roster to the NFL, including 17 first-round picks! It’s no accident that this team became National Champions.

It isn’t about blowing out an opponent by 50 points, dominating total passing yardage, or having the flashiest plays. The one common thread that each of these teams shared is TALENT. They had the best players in the right positions to make the plays needed to win.

Think about the Texas vs. Ohio State game of 2005. In that game, The Ohio State Buckeyes were driving late in the game and were ready to go ahead by 10 points. Unfortunately for the Buckeye faithful, Tight End Ryan Hamby (who?) ended up dropping a sure touchdown pass from Quarterback Justin Zwick (who?) in the endzone, and the Buckeyes had to settle for a field goal, giving them only a six point lead.

In response, the Longhorns (led by the superior talent named above) were able to march down the field and take the lead from Ohio State with only 2 minutes left in the game, thanks to a TD pass from Vince Young to Limas Sweed. That touchdown ended up being the difference maker as the Longhorns would close out that game and go on to defeat the USC Trojans in the National Championship game later that year.

What made the difference? The Longhorn talent was able to execute under pressure where the Buckeye players could not. Texas didn’t dominate the game statistically, they just did enough to win the game, and at the end of the day, that’s ALL that matters.

The best teams are the ones that are made up of the best players… end of debate!


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