FISCHER: Outside the Box
No faulting underclassmen for early entry to the NFL
When all the dust settled, a total of 10 LSU underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft.
This mass exodus included the likes of Chris Faulk, Michael Ford, Bennie Logan, Barkeveous Mingo, Kevin Minter, Sam Montgomery, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon, Spencer Ware and Brad Wing.
And it’s 11 if you consider dismissed Tyrann Mathieu who missed the entire 2012 season.
That looks like a good chuck of a collegiate all-star team when you consider that’s six (or seven if you include the Honey Badger) cogs to LSU’s fierce defense, a versatile, battering-ram of a running back and quite likely the most talented punter in the nation.
It’ll be quite a bit for LSU to overcome heading into the 2013 season.
But since we’ve got more than 200 days to break down how the Tigers will look on the field August 31 in Jerry World and beyond, I’m going to examine a different aspect regarding the effects of underclassmen leaving for the next level early.
That is: Are these kids making the best decision for their futures?
In order to answer that question, we must first accept that athletes have an opportunity that your average college student doesn’t have. They have a similar opportunity to the one that elite collegiate musicians, mathematicians, software designers and others who excel at their given trades have in that they are so gifted in their given field that they have the opportunity to make exorbitant amounts of money in said field before earning their college degree.
The difference, however, is that there is no amateur status governed by the high and mighty NCAA to oversee our non-athletic gifted youth and force them to make a decision between beginning their professional career and continuing their collegiate career.
And even if there were a situation where the Boston Pops Orchestra, for example, offered an elite underclassmen flutist the opportunity of a lifetime to “go pro” for their average salary of roughly $130,000, no one would bat an eye if the flutist drops out of college to follow his or her dream.
Well, why don’t we feel the same way about underclassmen athletes leaving for the next level?
Sure, there’s risk for failure and loss of future earnings in professional sports. But there’s also risk for failure and loss of future earnings looms if these players stay in school and risk injury for another year. They’re taking a chance either way. At least in the NFL, these players will be getting paid for their injuries with actual money and not credit hours.
Now don’t get me wrong. Earning a college degree is one of the most important achievements in life. It opens doors that would otherwise remain closed - doors that some of these players may need to have open if their professional football careers don’t pan out the way they would have liked. But with two and a half or three and a half years of college already under their belts, they should have already accumulated a conservative estimate of two-thirds to three-fourths of their hours needed to graduate. And those hours aren’t going anywhere. At any moment, they have the option of returning to school and finishing their degree for an enrollment cost that is rendered insignificant by even the NFL’s rookie minimum of $375,000. With potential graduation near the horizon anyway, it’s not worth risking future NFL earnings just to earn your degree now.
College underclassmen are often maligned for leaving school early. Well what about the risks of not leaving school early?
The reason students attend college is to maximize their future earning potential. For most, that requires a degree first. For a select few, it doesn’t. And although I hate lumping groups of people into generalizations, the truth is that just about every scholarship player who begins his career at LSU does so with the primary goal of getting to the NFL. A college degree is secondary. Over the course of their college careers, some struggle on the field or get injured and realize that a degree is their best gate to life after college. Others are lucky enough to continue pursuing their dream.
And for those that have put in the work in the August two-a-days, the weekly-scouting reports and the big games on Saturdays - all for the financial benefit of the university that they play for - they have earned the right to make an informed decision for their financial futures.
So yes, I believe most of these underclassmen will have made the right decisions for their futures. Even if it means leaving the place where they spent the best three or four years of their lives one year early.
Richard Fischer is the associate editor of Tiger Rag Magazine covering football and baseball. He is a graduate of LSU Journalism. Reach him at email@example.com