Time to Give College Football Players the Same Leverage as their Coach

Kelly's headset was barely off before he was headed to Philly to discuss and NFL job.

Kelly’s headset was barely off before he was headed to Philly to discuss and NFL job.

Maybe it’s the timing that got under my skin. Had the jet carrying beaten and battered Notre Dame even touched down back in South Bend before Irish head coach Brian Kelly was straightening his tie and fussing with his hair awaiting a meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles to discuss their vacant head coach position?

It seems like he sneaked off to another gate and booked for the Northeast as his players continued to ice down and soothe their wounds from the beat-down they endured against national champion Alabama.

Just so we’re clear: I have absolutely no problem with college coaches striking while the confetti is still raining down on their shoulders and leverage their success for a fatter paycheck. No problem at all.

God Bless Penn State’s Bill O’Brien for doin’ the NFL Dance before “deciding” (wink) to $tay at Penn State earlier this week. Last fall, the man took perhaps the most toxic and unpredictable college gig in America and handled it with dignity and success, winning more games (eight) than anyone thought he would.

Oregon’s Chip Kelly was more like that guy on the dance floor who thinks he has some moves. His awkward twirl with Cleveland, Philadelphia and reportedly Buffalo was actually pathetic. He’s been dancing for a few seasons now and it seemed as if he was a goner for sure. And good for him. Like many coaches, it seemed like he wanted to someday coach at the highest level. But after all but calling for a U-Haul, he $suddenly decided go stay in Eugene, much to the shock of many and the delight of Duck faithful.

Now, here’s the other Kelly, the Irish savior–who three years ago was a relatively unknown Kelly at Cincinnati–standing at the precipice of Notre Dame lore. Dude was being sized-up for a pedestal that would stand alongside those hoisting Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz as Irish coaches who won national championships. (A coach name Elmer Layden won one there, as well (1938) but alas I don’t believe he stands atop a pedestal, at least not one in South Bend.

But before the Irish defense has stopped flinching at the thought of ‘Bama’s 6′-2″, 220-pound running back Eddie Lacy, Kelly was dancin’.

Okay, so the confetti was raining on Nick Saban, not him, but Kelly was leveraging a blowout like nobody’s business–as is his right. But the timing was a bit stinky to me.

Moreover, his players couldn’t execute such leverage. What if they could? What if, say, Johnny Football (aka Maisel), the freshman Heisman Trophy winner, could have walked into head coach Kevin Sumlin office the morning after arriving back in Texas from New York and said, “Coach, I may not be any hotter than this, I’m heading to the NFL!”

But he can’t. Unless his potential one-and-done buddies on the basketball team, Johnny Football and other college players aren’t eligible for the NFL draft until they’ve been out of high school for three years.

We could debate all night about the merits of one-and-done, and in an age when the strength and condition programs at top college rival those of the NFL, I’m not wholly buying the idea that football is more physical and therefore the players should stay in college. They should at least be able to earn a living during the few years their bodies (and, ahem, their brains) will tolerate the game.

They should at least be able to do what their millionaire coaches do and leverage their success for economic gain.

They should at least be able to dance.

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