Football has a problem that needs to be addressed. The road from high school to college and finally to the NFL is a crooked path. The NCAA has pages and pages of rules that attempt to create a smooth transition for athletes, but their system is broken. This is evident by the weekly rules violations and scandals involving college athletes. Just this year nearly half of UNC’s defense was in trouble, Ohio St had 5 players suspended including Terrelle Pryor, A.J. Green was suspended and Heisman winner Cam Newton was deemed ineligible for a day. The magnitude and sheer volume of suspensions are enough to prove that something must be changed.
How To Solve The Problem?
The NFL should create a minor league football system. Let players who want an education go to college, play football and then decide if they want to pursue the NFL. If a player wants to get paid like a professional athlete and strictly focus on a career in the NFL, then they can choose to play in the NFL Minor League system.
The NFL Can’t Play Fair
Just because you create a league, doesn’t mean its automatically going to survive. College football has a great system set up for grooming players for the NFL and its working. Schools spend a lot of money on coaches, facilities and stadiums to ensure players have the best opportunity to succeed as possible. The NFL will have a huge fight on their hands, because this will really mess with college football’s money and the NFL may have to play by their own rules. The NFL will have to create certain rules and guidelines to help their cause along.
How To Make Sure The Minor League System Survives
Here are a few rules that would help a NFL Minor League system survive.
1) Allow players from the NFL Minor Leagues to enter the NFL draft after 2 years. Continue to force college athletes to wait two and a half years out of high school (Two FULL years removed from high school)
If a high school student graduated in Spring 2010 he could enter the 2012 NFL Draft if he went to the NFL Minor League System for two years. Currently players who graduate in Spring 2010 are not eligible until the 2013 NFL Draft. This gives the NFL Minor League system a definite advantage. An advantage that college football would fight, so how could the NFL justify it? Currently the league wants players to wait 3 years after high school because “Its goal is to protect younger players from injury, and protect the league’s current players from unfair competition”.
The NFL Minor League system would employ these athletes just like your typical salaried or contract employee. They get paid a wage and would work a specific amount of time. Being a full-time job these athletes would get to practice, work out and study film much more than NCAA rules allow. Your typical college athlete is only allowed to practice 20 hrs a week and no more then 4 hrs a day (during the season). The NFL could justify allowing minor league players to enter a year early, because their players will be much more ready for the NFL. Getting to practice for 2 years like its a full-time job is much different then practicing 20 hours a week, a few months out of the year, like college athletes.
2) Better Coaching
One of the main goals of this minor league system is to get its athletes ready for the NFL. To do this you have to have good coaching. For the league to survive it has to have coaching as good, if not better than college football. It could serve as a minor league for not just players, but coaches too. If done correctly the NFL would be looking at it’s minor league coaches to fill coaching spots in the NFL. It would also serve as a stepping stone for college coaches who want to coach in the NFL.
One key is that you’re going to have to either pay coaches as much as most college football coaches or provide special benefits. Most likely your minor league season will end before the college football season. This would allow minor league coaches to get a head start interviewing for NFL jobs.
Remember, you’re getting players ready for the NFL so each minor league team should run “pro style” offenses and defenses. This will help make minor league players more attractive to NFL scouts and could also be used to argue that minor league players would be ready for the NFL before college athletes.
3) Access To Players
Since the NFL will own the NFL Minor League system, it can allow it’s scouts more access to minor league players. Multiple scouting combines throughout the year as well as access during their season. Currently scouts only have a few months before the draft to work out players and only have one scouting combine. The NFL Minor League system could have multiple scouting combines throughout the year and allow all minor league players to participate. Not just those who are eligible for the draft. This is good for both the player and the NFL, because players are getting constant updates on what they need to improve and the NFL is getting more detailed information about players.
The NFL could also set up each minor league player with a “mentor” in the league by teaming up minor league players with NFL players. The NFL player could help guide them and offer advice about playing in the NFL. Certain programs are already in place for rookies in the NFL to help them transition into the league. More programs could be created to help minor league players.
It Could Work
The above plan isn’t perfect, but I’m confident that it could work. The key is allowing minor league players to enter the NFL Draft a year earlier than college players. The NFL could easily justify this move with some of the above information. Of course college football isn’t going to like this plan. They wouldn’t just sit back and let it happen. But the NFL holds all the cards and gets to make the rules, so they would just have to decide how far they want to take it.
Athletes will have to decide if they want a 3-4 year college experience or 2 years being paid to train year round by NFL coaches, running NFL systems and getting premium access to NFL scouts and players. If you’re #1 goal is to make it to the NFL it seems like an obvious choice to me.