The Solution to Players Skipping Bowl Games

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A solution to players skipping bowl games

Someone must create a solution to top college football players skipping bowl games. Unless you don’t mind not seeing the top players performing in their college career finale. Or their final season. 

So I’ll offer mine. In the end, you the consumer pays for it by buying a Hyundai instead of a Toyota, or drinking a Pepsi instead of a Coke. And your cable bill might go up. 

Fournette and McCaffrey

This year’s college bowl season played without two of the top eight draft picks in the 2017 NFL draft.

LSU running back, Leonard Fournette, skipped out on the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The LSU Tigers had no hope of becoming a National Champion. And were playing a meaningless bowl game. 

Meanwhile Stanford running back, Christian McCaffrey, skipped out on the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Again, with no hope of becoming a National Champion.

Ironically, the number two and number three draft picks of the 2017 NFL draft played in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The Chicago Bears drafted UNC Quarterback with the second pick and the San Francisco 49ers drafted Stanford defensive lineman, Solomon Thomas with the third pick.

Passing on bowl game upset some people

Oh, yeah. Some people didn’t like college players skipping out on their teammates for the love of money. And don’t tell me it isn’t for love of money.

It was even a Steinberg client, 49er safety Tim McDonald, who gave Crowe the film’s [Jerry MaGuire] most memorable line. When Crowe asked McDonald what he looks for in an agent and a team, McDonald replied — and this will just shock the 49ers faithful — “Show me the money.”

NFL Hall of Famer, Marshall Faulk, college football analysts, Danny Kanell, Kirk Herbstreit, and others blasted the absentees.

NFL didn’t punish players who skipped bowl games

Okay, so one former NFL player wouldn’t draft the bowl absentees. But these folks don’t work in the front offices of the Jacksonville Jaguars, or the Carolina Panthers.

When you’re on the clock, you can either draft Fournette, or McCaffrey, and make your team better. Or let them slide to your division rival that will beat you up with them. You make the call. 

NFLPA endorsed

Although there hasn’t been an official poll, it seems most college football fans don’t like college players who skip out on their teammates and their bowl game. So it seems that the NFL Players Association is in the minority when they endorse the idea of players skipping their bowl game.

NFLPA president Eric Winton, a former player, applauds the move by the future pros.

Winston has more credibility than most in my opinion. Winston witnessed first hand one of the most sickening and devastating injuries to a potential first rounder in the history of college football. Caution, video is exceedingly graphic.

“I was thinking, All right, get up like usual, Willis,” Winston remembers, who was then a true freshman tight end. “And he didn’t get up. I was heartbroken.”

College players’ fears aren’t unfounded

As we’ve seen with Willis McGahee, sometimes a player’s draft potential can be destroyed in one play during a bowl game. McGahee was a top five NFL draft prospect before his injury.

Jaylon Smith

Last year Jaylon Smith severely injured his knee during a bowl game. And is still suffering nerve damage complications from his torn ACL. Smith was a potential number one draft choice that dropped to the second round.

Jake Butt

Michigan tight end, Jake Butt, dropped from the first round to the fourth round this year after tearing his ACL in the Orange Bowl against Florida State.

Future of college bowl game

Skip rest of season

Jadeveon ClowneyHow slippery is the slope of college players skipping out on their bowl game? Does it get to the point where they skip the last few games if their season is in the tank?

What if they are a consensus number one pick after their second year? Should they skip their third year?

Clowney’s final year at South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney pretty much checked out of his third year in college. And still went number one in the 2014 NFL draft. So why not skip out on their third year?

Should McCaffrey skipped the entire season

McCaffrey actually might have dropped in the draft due to injuries he suffered during the 2016 season. At the end of the 2015 season he was the Heisman runner up. This year he wasn’t even in the running? Did playing this year drop him from a top five pick to a top 10 pick?

Sam Darnold could skip the 2017 season and still be the top pick

Let’s look at the 2017 season. Anyone who saw the Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State knows the value of USC quarterback, Sam Darnold. It is going to be hard for him not to go number one in the 2018 NFL draft. Darnold’s draft status can only go down. So why play this year?

Insurance

college player insuranceInsurance is an option to every player.

Jake Butt opened an insurance policy that paid him up to $2 million for his injury. Willis McGahee opened an insurance policy just days before his injury that paid him $2.5 million .

Insurance is solution to player skipping bowl game

Insurance is a solution to players skipping bowl games. But there are some problems that need to be addressed.

Right now, players usually take insurance policies out for themselves. Usually for just the bowl game and up to the draft. And players pay the premium, usually $10,000 per million.

No such thing as a perfect solution

First of all, there is rarely a perfect solution to a complex problem such as college football players skipping out on their bowl game to preserve their draft status.

What I’m trying to do here is open a conversation that might lead to a better solution.

Who is covered

The NFL Draft Board gives a grade to players that shows up in the first round of an NFL mock draft. That is a good starting point. It is a concept that needs brainstormed by a committee including the NFLPA, NFL scouts, bowl game sponsors and networks. Why bowl game sponsors and networks? Because they are the ones paying the premium under this plan. Although, indirectly consumers will eventually pay the premium.

Who pays

The first question we have to ask is, who benefits from the best college players playing in bowl games?

 

 

The networks

Networks will have to pay if they want to see the best players on the field for their bowl games
Networks will have to pay if they want to see the best players on the field for their bowl games

If Sam Darnold and UCLA quarterback, Josh Rosen, (currently #2 on the NFL Draft Board behind Darnold) don’t play in 2017, the Pac-12 network is going to suffer. Now it isn’t like the network is going to pay millions for Darnold or Rosen. Remember, they can open an insurance policy or carry the liability themselves.

Either way the networks share the liability of everyone on the NFL Draft Board. And the liability is distributed according to revenue share. But I’m getting into a topic beyond this topic. Let’s keep it simple for now.

The advertisers pay a premium for your attention, commercials. They pay a fee to the networks. The networks will pass the cost onto their advertisers…and you.

The networks will probably try to squeeze the cable company. And the cable company will try to squeeze you the consumer.

Outrageous? Do you want to see Sam Darnold play in the Sun Bowl, or not? Otherwise, why wouldn’t he take the Fournette and McCaffrey route?

The bowl sponsors

Look at it this way. You run the Sun Bowl and Sam Darnold is going to skip it. How much would you pay for Darnold to play? Remember, the networks are covering some of the costs.

The bowl sponsors are buying big advertising. They want you to go to Buffalo Wild Wings. They are betting however many of dollars they spent on the sponsorship that you, the consumer, will go to Buffalo Wild Wings over Chili’s. And they will profit more than they spent on the advertising.

But that doesn’t work as well if Sam Darnold doesn’t play in their bowl game. There is a monetary difference in draw to a game that has Sam Darnold, and one that doesn’t. The formula has to benefit the sponsor to want to pay the insurance and have Sam Darnold play in their bow game.

How much paid to an injured player

An injured player is paid the difference between their NFL Draft Board position and their actual draft position for the first year. And half the difference for the second year. Again, someone smarter than me will redefine this. This is a starting point.

Can the sponsors afford it?

player insurance moneyWho pays for college players’ insurance?First of all, let’s calculate the cost of an injury. And it seems that there is about one every year. Under the ideal I laid out about one year and a half of the difference. I would estimate the average payout in 2017 dollars per year would be about $10 Million.

Yes. The sponsors and networks can afford it. Granted this is money going to schools. But it shows what the sponsors are willing to budget for the bowl games.

This is just bowl game money. Not money for the regular season.

Waters still emphasizes an important point about the bowl system as a whole: Schools and leagues have greatly profited from it.

Last year, they collectively received about $600 million in payouts from the bowls, including a whopping $425 million from the five top bowl games including the Playoff, according to NCAA documents obtained by USA TODAY Sports.  After $105 million in combined expenses for the 41 games, that means schools and leagues profited by nearly $495 million.

When insurance activates

A player is covered under this insurance policy from the first day of fall practice through the NFL draft. This would’ve covered Sidney Jones’ torn achilles tendon injury he suffered during the University of Washington’s pro day.

The NFLPA holds the insurance policies and pays them out on a schedule commensurate with the player’s salary.

The hope for the players’ insurance

The hope is that college football players no longer feel they need to take a season off, or skip a bowl game. The players can play with the reckless abandon that will impress NFL scouts and propel them to the top of the NFL draft.

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