Opting Out of Bowl Games: Addressing Audience Concerns

The feedback we’ve gotten from the original article is fantastic – thank you to all who wrote in! There seemed to be two camps of responses, which might overlap.

Many of you identified that, if one of your players were considering opting out of their bowl game, you would sit down with the player individually and address their specific situation and concerns. Addressing a player’s individual context seems to be a theme from those who wrote in, and there is certainly no better way.

Many others said that players should be expected to finish the season – you have a point as well. Those ideas seemed to reflect the theme of the article, which is that, in most cases, that is the best possible outcome.

And to the person who wrote in, “just don’t do it,” I’d ask you to consider the idea that perhaps BOTH camps are correct: that in most cases, players should be expected to finish the season, but addressing a player’s individual context is essential.

“perhaps BOTH camps are correct: that in most cases, players should be expected to finish the season, but addressing a player’s individual context is essential”

One of our devoted readers and podcast listeners had A LOT to say about the article, and asked that we address a few of his key concerns. His concerns are totally valid, so here goes…

“How can you gloss over the NCAA abiding its own standard?”

  • This is a really good question. The NCAA is, at times, a shady business. Quoting them in the article was a way to reflect the intention of the opportunity (football as a platform for education), not an explicit endorsement. The article was not about whether or not the NCAA is doing a good job, it was about outcomes for its athletes. To address one issue often distracts from the other, which seems to be a flaw in most of the media coverage. The question is, based on the best possible outcomes for a student-athlete, should a player opt out of his bowl game? Unless there are extenuating circumstances (hence the need to address a player’s individual context), the overall answer is no, they should not sit out. I believe that they should fulfill their commitment to their teammates (their teammates, not the NCAA), and finish what they started.

“Most will not be out by 24, the average NFL career for a first round draft pick 9.3 years”

  • Fair. But there are two essential points still to consider: 1) there is no guarantee that any of these young men will be first round draft picks (Aaron Rogers was a first-rounder, but slid 20 spots from his projection, allegedly costing him millions; UCLA linebacker Myles Jack was one of the most talented players in the 2016 draft, slid out of the first round completely; the list goes on) and 2) even if they are first round draft picks and are able to stay healthy for 9+ years, we are still putting these young men back into the world at the ripe old age of… about 30. If we think a signing bonus will prepare them for their lives, we are mistaken. As the study in the original article mentions, it’s quite clear that vast sums of money cannot predetermine happiness, mental health, or career satisfaction. That is, of course, before we examine this final point:

“What about socio economic background? The happiness study only accounts for those who have their basic needs met”

  • This is an important point and cannot be overlooked. The basic needs threshold mentioned in the study is between $65-70,000. If a player has NFL ability, he will cross the basic needs threshold immediately: the minimum salary of a first year NFL player is $480,000 (in other words, almost seven years at $70,000/year). Considering the socio-economic situation of a player and his family is essential, but we’re not talking about “lots of money” or “no money” – we’re talking about differences in levels of elite wealth. Let’s assume a bad scenario: Jaylon Smith tore up his knee in a bowl game and fell out of the first round. His current contract is worth $4.42million, guaranteed.

And with that last question in mind, I think it’s important to address one of the core values of the Good Athlete Project: equity. To address this alongside out goals, I’ll quote a member of the Project, in conversation with another member of the Project, on this same issue: “Equipping one person from a disadvantaged background with tons of cash is not the way to combat systematic oppression, or even solve small community issues. But if we reconsider the way we look at college football, and use it as a space to educate and empower those from disadvantaged backgrounds, equip them with conscientiousness, grit, and the education to change the world, then we can accomplish incredible things.”

“if we reconsider the way we look at college football, and use it as a space to educate and empower those from disadvantaged backgrounds, equip them with conscientiousness, grit, and the education to change the world, then we can accomplish incredible things.”

 

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