Should there be an NFL Farm System?

Submitted by El Jeffe on June 7th, 2011 at 10:33 AM

On the heels of WatersDemos's excellent diary and the Bobby Knight Board discussion, I got to thinking that it might be worth while having a collaborative debate about the issue of payment to college football players. I would be especially interested in hearing from some MGoEconomists on this issue, given that there are some particularities of the labor market for football services that invite economic thinking.

The Problem

The problem (if it is a problem) with the NCAA rule against players' selling their swag is that it seems to violate principles of personal property rights. So, the logical alternative is to allow players to sell their swag to whomever they choose. This creates an incentive structure in which recruits can be told by coaches that University X has a super rich booster who will give them $100,000 for a couple of signed jerseys. Lesser recruits might only be able to command, say, $50,000 over four years at a lesser school. At this point, college football becomes no different than minor league baseball or hockey, with the prearranged "jersey sales" being tantamount to signing bonuses.

But, this is only a problem if it is defined as a problem; that is, if our sepia-toned memories of what college football used to be like make us unwilling to accept that college football could be a farm system. On the other hand, humans use things like nostalgia and emotion to drive decision-making from time to time—it’s called “culture.”

Solution 1

So, one solution would seem to be a flat wage for all football players, outside of tuition, books, and whatever they currently get for pocket money. So, all players would be paid, say, $2,000 per month for 12 months, essentially a fairly lucrative campus job. That wage could even rise as they progress through college, so that by the time the NFL draft rolls around, the vast majority of players who don’t get selected might have a little money in their pockets to go to grad school, start a business, etc.

Two obvious problems with this:

  1. Other NCAA athletes don’t have access to this. It would only be football players; and
  2. Although the flat wage would prevent an above-board bidding war for recruits (since there would be no benefit to choosing University X over Y, unlike the return on choosing the Yankees over the Royals), it only creates a new level playing field on which rich boosters would compete under the table. In that sense, it doesn’t really solve any problems. That is, even if (and perhaps because) Terrelle Pryor would earn as much as Drew Dileo, there would still be incentives for back room payments.

Solution 2

Another solution is to create a farm system for the NFL, and force high school players to choose between college and the farm team. It stands to reason that if two of the three other major sports have farm systems, and the NBA has a sort of hybrid (the NBDL would be a true farm system if the players were allowed to sign directly from high school), there would be pressure for the NFL to follow suit.

It seems to me like the crux of the problem is that college football players (like baseball, hockey, and basketball players, and unlike college gymnasts or water polo players) possess a set of skills that, at their highest level, are highly in demand in the professional labor market. This creates all sorts of incentives for players to want to cash in on those skills.

This is what I want some economists’ take on: is it coincidence or causal that the two college sports where recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich are football and basketball, the two major revenue-generating pro sports that don’t have a fully-developed farm system, a la hockey and baseball? My working hypothesis is that having a well-developed farm system—which allows star players to get paid for their services prior to making it to the big show—that reduces the dirt in college baseball or hockey recruiting.

So, if we are truly concerned about such dirt, the solution would be to make the NBDL a true farm system, and to create a NFL farm system. The case of Brandon Jennings is instructive in this respect—recall that because he couldn’t go into either the NBA or NDBL right after high school, he went to Europe to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens more in the future. In this sense, the Euro leagues are like the NBA farm system (see also: Ricky Rubio), but just a really inefficient one as of now.

Anyway, if the NFL did adopt a farm system, it would have to be done like the other farm systems, that is, in conjunction with the NFL. So, no competitive USFL or XFL or even Arena league nonsense. I actually think this could work, by the way. There are plenty of places where (1) football is beloved, (2) there is no local NFL team, and (3) plenty of rooting interest in a nearby NFL team. Or, more nationally, I’m sure the Dallas Cowboys’ farm team—even if it was located in, say, Louisville, KY—would generate plenty of suppport.

The Questions

So I guess the three questions are:

  1. Is selling swag under the current system a problem?
  2. Would paying players more help the problem?
  3. Would an NFL (and true NBA) farm system be (a) economically viable, and (b) solve the problem of dirty practices in college football and basketball?

I'll hang up and listen.


Real Tackles Wear 77

June 7th, 2011 at 11:10 AM ^

It would be hard for an NFL farm system to become financially viable. The costs associated with operating a football league are astronomical, and it would be hard to make enough money to offset these costs when the on-field product people are supposed to pay to see is a bunch of kids just out of high school. It would also be difficult to get it off the ground because until there is some type of precedent set by a big-time recruit, college football's tradition would seem to win out. If you were a 5* recruit offered a scholarship at any d1 school of your choice, would you take a chance on a minor league system that was still a huge unknown?


June 7th, 2011 at 3:34 PM ^

You're talking about top recruits going to minor league versus college baseball? I think down the road football prospects could choose a minor league system (if it were formed now) over college, but not currently. Imagine choosing between the Toledo Wild Dawgs versus the University of Michigan. There would have to be a sizeable amount of money offered to the recruit to get him to pick Toledo.

Also, aren't baseball and hockey prospects usually drafted immediately (maybe during) high school? Makes it easier to slot a drafted player onto one's minor league team. Would have to amend football rules about drafting which would make the draft bigger, less of a sure deal, and would curtail top end contracts.


June 7th, 2011 at 3:49 PM ^

Yes, you would neccesarily need to alter the draft to open it up to High Schoolers.

In baseball, High Schoolers are drafted, and THEN choose whether they will go to college or not. If they go to college, they are ineligible for the draft for another 3 years, at which point they'd again enter the draft (hockey is somewhat different, but I'm not familiar with it).

As per "choosing the Toledo Wild Dawgs over Michigan"...well, plenty of kids choose to play for the Toledo Mudhens and not baseball at Texas, Cal, or any other number of powers. I don't see why they wouldn't for football.


June 8th, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

True, but my point and the original comments point is that if the system were established next year most kids would probably still pick colleges because that is what they are more familiar with and the more proven route to the NFL. It would make starting a farm system tougher, but down the road the farm system could become just like baseballs if it proves it can put kids in NFL and they can make money while trying to do it.


June 7th, 2011 at 4:58 PM ^

"The costs associated with operating a football league are astronomical, and it would be hard to make enough money to offset these costs."

Now if only there was a way to get the government to subsidize a farm system...Maybe if we attach it to a governement funded establishment!

"It would also be difficult to get it off the ground because until there is some type of precedent set by a big-time recruit, college football's tradition would seem to win out. If you were a 5* recruit offered a scholarship at any d1 school of your choice, would you take a chance on a minor league system that was still a huge unknown?"

I'd take the money. I think Drew Henson agrees.


June 7th, 2011 at 11:13 AM ^

I think a farm system would work better for basketball than for football because football has a higher rate of serious injuries. If pro football had become popular before college football (as was the case with baseball) and developed a farm system, I suspect that there would have been a lot of horror stories about failed prospects washing out of the system with permanent physical problems, no money, and no marketable skills. There would have been calls for reform, probably to have the minor league partner with 4-year colleges or at least community colleges in some way so the players would at least have something to fall back on if they couldn't make it in football. The system might not have ended up so different from what we have now, although if there were less longstanding fan interest in college football there would likely be less money in it today.

For any sport, farm teams should draw better in areas that have a lot of fans of the parent team. I'd put the Pistons' farm team in Flint, Lansing, or Grand Rapids.



June 7th, 2011 at 11:19 AM ^

but i think that saying that gear and equipment is actually property of the university's state, which it kind of is, and that selling that gear and equipment would be not only seen as an ncaa penalty but backed upas being a criminal offense for both the seller and the buyer would stop a lot of this stuff.  don't know what to say about gold pants, rings, etc except that players would receive them upon graduation or leaving school.


June 7th, 2011 at 11:16 AM ^

The fallacy in all these pay for play arguments is that if you give the players x amount of money this will stop.  It won't stop.   If I gave you $500 and then you walked down the road and someone offerd you $1,000 would you say oh no I'm good I got the $500.   Unless you are willing to pay millions a year like the pros there is no way this stops.

Everything is paid for.  These kids do not have to pay a dime while on campus.  Food, shelter, clothing and video games are provided(bowl game loot).  The only thing these kids need money for to enjoy the college experience are things they shouldn't be getting.  (booze)

To your question: Should selling swag be a problem?  No it shouldn't, but as with everything it's the extreme that ruins it for everyone.   If you allowed kids to sell theri jerseys for $250 a pop everyone would win, kid gets some spending cash and a fan gets some memorabilia. You can pretty much guarantee some Alabama Booster will offer Trent Richardson $20,000 for his game jersey and the bidding war from school to school is on.  At Alabma we can get you 30-50K a year for your swag if you make All SEC.   Oh yeah well at ND we can get you 70-80K a year etc...


June 7th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

I don't see a problem selling propertah. I also don't see a problem letting kids get jobs that are tied to their image, as long as it doesn't go against the school's image (think NFL players banned from promoting alcohol beverages). Sure, there would be bidding wars, just like there are NFL draft wars. People are delusional if they think Clowney wasn't getting told he had a better shot at a high first round pick with School A over School B, this would just monetize it as well.


June 7th, 2011 at 11:51 AM ^

I think that selling the property IS a problem because while the student is eligible, who's property is it? I think the equipment (as mentioned above) is the school's property, so that shouldnt be sold/traded. In terms of "gifts" like gold pants or championship rings, couldn't schools very quickly establish with recruits "We'll give you more swag than any other school, you can expect at least $10k a year, even with our "we went 0-12" diamond rings we'll make you"??? It'll be the same thing, monetized and promised, just instead of booster handshakes it'll be promised booster trades. 

In terms of the jobs-tied-to-their-image... there I agree with you. I think that if players were just allowed to sell their likeness a lot of these problems go away. There's already the lawsuit with EA Sports over NCAA football likenesses (who else loves that QB#16 just happens to be black, 6'1'' 195# and fast as hell! Total coincedence!!), but if players were allowed to profit from their own likenesses then I think things get a lot easier. The "fairness" equation goes out the window. If Denard wants to make money because he's Denard, he will do a car commercial or something. If Denard just wants to get a scholarship and be a "traditional" student athlete he will. I don't remember who, but one of our football players was working as a model for Bivouac and had to quit - it wasn't clear if he was modeling for his looks or because he's a football player. I think if a store wanted to pay football players a fair wage for model work (whatever they look like) they should be able to. Now here's where compliance comes in making sure that the wages are fair/money isnt being funnelled etc... but still, they should be able to sell their own likenesses

Waters Demos

June 7th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

is certainly an issue here.  This is basically one's exclusive right to control commercial use of his or her likeness/identity.  But players are required to sign what amounts to a waiver of their right of publicity in order to compete (Form 08-3a). 

Ed O'Bannon has alleged, among other things, that this amounts to duress, and that there's no informed consent insofar as the players are strong armed into it in order to compete, there is no counsel present for them at time of signature (so they don't have a good idea of the implications of what they're signing), and the terms are vague.

To the OP, thanks for the nod. 


June 7th, 2011 at 1:29 PM ^

JB- I don't think there should be too much of a question as to who's property the awards are. This just goes back to the question posed (I think in the OP, if not then in the last few days on here) about whether this is a problem. I don't think it should be too much of an issue with the bidding wars; it goes on already (AJ Green, TP, I'm sure many others) and I can't find something morally wrong with it, so why not let it into the open?

WD- That's an interesting point about vague terms and quite honestly selling likeness rights to Adidas, car dealerships, store openings, whatever, should be allowed. Denard could get a big contract to wear Adidas apparel around campus and in a poster at Foot Locker or whatever and groups of lesser known players could get free dinner at an A2 restaurant for showing up, announcing on Twitter, whatever.


June 7th, 2011 at 2:12 PM ^

they are the players and the players should be able to do what they want with them. But again, what's to stop the "rich getting richer" part of it? What if OSU promised 10K in swag to every recruit and ND only promised 8K, and Michigan 7K. At that point we're back to bidding wars of how much swag recruits get - not what they sell them for. If it's OK to sell Jerseys now, and UGA says each player gets 5 jerseys they can sell, but OSU says each gets 10... that's something else to monitor, etc.


June 8th, 2011 at 2:31 AM ^

Not that this is a long-term solution, because you do bring up good points, but the NCAA regulates gifts given and their monetary cost. There's been talk recently that with gold prices spiking that the pants tradition at OSU might have to change.

Of course there's nothing saying that those pants that are only "worth" a hundred dollars or whatever wouldn't sell for many times that.


June 7th, 2011 at 6:51 PM ^

should have absolutely NO right to sell these kids images or jerseys with their names on it.  They do not own the kids or the kids images.  Sure you can sell a #16 U of M jersey, but you can't license Denard's name or image to anyone else.  If they want to do that, they should put that money in a trust fund to be released to the player after his/her college career has ended.


June 7th, 2011 at 11:44 AM ^

Basketball players can enter the NBADL out of high school. They can't be called up to the NBA however:

"Saddled by woeful grades, the prospect of sitting out a year at Memphis and his parents' desire to avoid a far-flung sojourn in foreign lands, Williams instead signed a contract with the Tulsa 66ers in 2009. In doing so, he earned plaudits as a groundbreaker from ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Sports Illustrated and The New York Times, and he became a one-man basketball experiment: Could the D-League acquire, develop and quickly prepare first-time prospects for the NBA?"

" The D-League doesn't pay its players anywhere near the offers available in foreign leagues; an average NBA Development League contract ranges from $13,000 to $25,000"


June 7th, 2011 at 12:03 PM ^

called the USFL. It had problems, then DonaldTrump finished it off. Any farm system or Minor League would take place like the baseball farm system and minor league: after college.

El Jeffe

June 7th, 2011 at 3:47 PM ^

First of all, the USFL directly competed with the NFL, a la the old AFL. So in that sense, the USFL wasn't a farm system. Second, what do you mean that the "baseball farm system and minor league" (are they different?) would take place "after college"? Don't college-aged players often go to the minors?


June 7th, 2011 at 7:21 PM ^

I didn't know I had to check all of my facts or face retribution. Relax. The USFL directly comepted with the NFL for like 1 week, whereas it was the junior NFL for the rest of it's short history, it was made up of a bunch of has-beens and draftees that wanted to go pro early, was owned by two-bit shady wannabe owners, with tiny payrolls in small towns or mostly empty stadiums. A bunch of players got a chance in the USFL like they do in the CFL and later went to the real Pro Football League. I know there is are discrepancies comparing it to minor league baseball but it's not a huge stretch to see the similarities. 

Second of all, I don't generally consider all the farm leagues and bush leagues in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other latin countries the minor leagues, even though they supply a large chunk of professional ballplayers.

El Jeffe

June 8th, 2011 at 12:53 AM ^

Well, I would say "check facts or face retribution" is the signal characteristic of both MGoBlog and, you know, a sound argument. Having said that, I'm pretty relaxed, but thanks for encouraging me on that.

I was just trying to figure out whether you thought (1) the USFL was a prototype of an NFL farm system, (2) the minor leagues were different from a farm system, and (3) college-aged kids did or did not play in the baseball minor leagues/farm system.


June 7th, 2011 at 7:25 PM ^

also roughly 50% kids who went pro after going to college, dude. My inferrence was that minor league play wouldn't serve as a replacement for the college game. Jeez guys don't give you an inch of slack around here. Next time I'll run my posts by a lawyer first so I don't upset anyone.


June 7th, 2011 at 12:05 PM ^

I'm skeptical about your hypothesis that there is a direct link between the presence of well-developed farm systems in baseball and hockey and the fact that there is less dirt in these sports. College baseball/hockey share something else in common when compared to football/basketball: they are not as widely popular. This is largely just based on my perception (based on TV/internet presence), but there just aren't as many people that closely follow college baseball or college hockey. The professional venues are followed closely, but not in college.

Now you could make the argument that they are not as popular BECAUSE there are farm systems in place. This would make the farm-to-dirt link an indirect one (farm system --> less popular --> less dirt). But if the two are only indirectly linked, then decreasing the amount of dirt in football/basketball by developing farm systems would necessarily have to go through the route of less popularity. Call me crazy but even if there were well-developed farm systems for football/basketball, I don't see those sports dropping off the map anytime soon.

El Jeffe

June 7th, 2011 at 4:10 PM ^

You may be right, and it's only a hypothesis. But I'm not sure popularity is the right metric. Baseball is still pretty popular. My argument would be that if Drew Henson hadn't been paid $1 million or whatever it was to sign with the Yankees and had instead had to be recruited by ASU, Oklahoma, Florida State, and whatever other baseball powers, there would likely have been the incentive for some shenanigans to be thrown his way.

Conversely, if Derrick Rose had been paid $50-$100K to play for two years in the (slightly imaginary) NBDL instead of going to Memphis for one year, would that have cut down on the shenanigans surrounding him? If Cam Newton got to play for pay in the (fully imaginary) NFDL, would that have cut down on some shenanigans?


June 7th, 2011 at 3:55 PM ^

Don't you think College Baseball is less popular BECAUSE the best players overwhelmingly don't play it?

Top top HS talent is signed in baseball to multi-million dollar contracts. Even the dirtiest football program doesn't pay that (Newton made a drop of that).

Mr Miggle

June 7th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

By invoking violation of personal property rights you seem to be implying that the NCAA is doing something illegal. That's clearly not the case. Once you allow the players to capitalize on their status as athletes to earn money they are no longer amateurs, one of the "A"s in NCAA.  There would be no reasonable way to regulate selling their swag.

I don't understand your use of the term nostalgia. You are talking about the present, no?

I agree with the problems you gave with your first solution. It would do almost nothing to discourage unethical boosters and players that were already inclined to take free tattoos, etc are still going to be so inclined. It would make the financial situation of players better, of course, but it wouldn't necessarily have any effect on corruption.

I don't agree with your assumption that corruption occurs more often in CFB and CBB because of the absence of minor leagues. I'd say it has everything to do with the popularity of those college sports and the corresponding willingness of boosters to pay.

Your second solution depends entirely upon the NFL wanting to implement it. What incentive do they have? They stuck their toes in the water with NFL Europe. They have other things on ther plate now. Working HS players into their draft and competing head to head with CFB for players not ready for the NFL doesn't sound better for them than the current system.

Do we really want HS players to have to decide between college and minor league football, especially if the minors are seen as the best way to get into the NFL? While there are obviously some players who don't have any interest in school, the current system has some real benefits. How many players are better off for having worked harder in HS to qualify academically? How many that don't make the NFL are better off attending school than playing in the minors? Hell, how many that make the NFL and NBA are better off attending college? You could make a case that it would be better if baseball and hockey barred players right out of HS from their minor leagues.

El Jeffe

June 7th, 2011 at 4:06 PM ^

Thanks for participating. This is the kind of dialogue I was hoping for. Some responses:

1.  In terms of property rights, I'm only tossing out what many of the objections are to the NCAA rule. I.e., "why shouldn't Pryor be allowed to sell his gold pants?"

2.  In terms of nostalgia, my line of argumentation is this:

  • Unlike the other three major sports, football has no formal farm system;
  • College football, with some modifications, could be that farm system.
  • This would violate our nostalgic memories of our brave boys fighting the hated Buckeyes on the grid-iron while we wave our fedoras skyward and praise President Roosevelt.
  • OTOH, even if our distaste for college football becoming a farm system is driven by nostalgia, what's wrong with that?
  • Because we probably can't or won't turn college football into a true farm system, perhaps we (and by we I mean the NFL, as if they haven't already...) should think about a formal NFL farm system.

3.  As for the popularity of college football and willingness of boosters to pay, I simply wonder whether some of that would be reduced if 25% of the top football recruits went to the farm system. One could argue, I suppose, that creaming off the top 25% just makes the 26% kid the new #1.

4.  As for incentives, the only incentive in pro sports is money. So if the NFL thought it could make money by having a farm system, it would. Frankly, I don't really understand the economics of it all that well, which is why I was hoping some sports economists would get involved. Is it really the case that the MLB farm system is more profitable than allowing colleges to train the next generation of baseball players on those colleges' dimes?

5.  As for your last point, I'm not really arguing the morality of it. But given that people seem to have pretty uniform disdain for the NCAA and its rules, I was simply wondering about the extent to which a farm system would solve some of these problems.


June 7th, 2011 at 12:20 PM ^

Your premise that there is less dirt in hockey and baseball because of a farm system is not entirely correct. Yes, it gives top end talent a choice between a minor league system or a college program and allows many players not interested in an education to pursue their career elsewhere. That would help football and basketball. But it is an entirely different dynamc between the sports. Top end talented kids (and less talented kids) who play in the minor league systems for hockey versus college hockey do it because their only dream is making it to the NHL, while lots of kids playing in college hockey desire a degree and want to pursue their dreams in NHL, but also really want to play for prestigious university. Lots of kids want to play for UofM, Minnesota, Boston College, North Dakota, etc. The smaller schools get kids who probably don't seem like strict NHL talent, but can make it possibly through development. Also, smaller schools get local kids. There is a reason college hockey does not necessarilly send a lot of talent to the NHL: most top end talent doesn't play in college hockey. They go to the OHL or play abroad. The NHL draws from all over the world. The NFL draws predominantly from America (caveat is the NBA is spreading out too). Both hockey and baseball draw from everywhere, thus less American kids legitimately have a shot at playing. America feeds most of the NFL. Both hockey and baseball became popular professionally before college teams did. Football and basketball saw early college popularity (moreso with football than basketball).

The big difference and I think the main reason hockey recruiting isn't as bad is because of interest and money. There is significantly less money and interest in hockey than football and basketball. Baseball pulls as much interest and money, but emerged (with its minor leagues) earlier than college baseball. Additionally, hockey and baseball tend to be more of a crabshoot when developing players than football and basketball (moreso basketball where the Rivals Top 20 usually peppers the first round of the NBA draft year after year). Creating a professional farm system does not solve the problem. Beyond the obvious start-up problems, there will still be the interest in attracting the top prospects and although the Terrelle Pryors of the world might go to the minor league, boosters might be able to attract the Dan Herrons or DeVier Poseys to come play at college with large monetary donations. The problem is boosters and coaches who need the competitive advantage to make more money and build winning teams. As long as the Nick Sabans and Jim Tressels are making millions fielding winning teams, they will bend the rules and not make proper stands against boosters.

Here is an NCAA estimation of the amount of college players making it to NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB from college: 

1.2% of college baskeball players and 1.7% of college football players will get drafted. Is a minor league system really worth it to the other 98+% of kids who won't play professionally, or is a degree more important? Granted those numbers would change under a minor league system where the most likely proffesionally bound prospects would head to the minor leagues instead of college. Baseballs minor league rate at making the pros is estimated around 18%. In the end this system is probably best, but reform needs to happen.

I think if you could limit coaches pay to certain set grades (or call me a socialist a universal set amount) it would provide coaches less of an incentive to need to have these illegal competitve advantages. If a coach were to fail at a top end school he could move to near top end schools and still make almost the same (if not the same) amount of money. If college football is truly about passion and camraderie and tradition coaches will want to coach there regardless. Brady Hoke: "if I can make 1 million at UofM versus Texas, I would choose UofM." The cutthroat coaches (SEC) would have less incentive to cheat, or if they want to make more money, actually learn how to coach and go to NFL instead of building easily superior teams based on ridculous recruiting advantages.

Maybe the NCAA provides cash or program incentives (more scholarships) to teams that are squeaky clean. As of now, the SEC can bend the rules and gain competitive advantage. Make it a competitive advantage to follow the rules and then many (not all) problems will be sorted out. NCAA should reform instead of count their money.


June 7th, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

1.2% of college baskeball players and 1.7% of college football players will get drafted.

That's what we're talking about. All this "personal property rights" and libertarian free market stuff is really, to me, a red herring. It's tatamount to saying "If the system is broken, legalize the broken part rather than fixing it." Paying Pryor $2,000 a month wouldn't prevent him from selling equipment or memorabilia. It might de-incentivize it a bit, but it wouldn't fix the problem.

The problem is that they don't see the value of what they already have: the tuition, and the value of the diploma. The degree, or potential for it, has no value because the player already knows what they're going to do. The one kid on the team that "knows" he's going pro (Pryor, Toomer or Rose from my time, insert your favorite one-and-done basketballer) look at the revenue of the Athletic Department and decide they're not getting their "fair share." But the other 98% of the team is incredibly happy to get 4 years of room, board, and tuition (and per diems), and the value of the degree.

So here's my propsal: my old company had a master's program that they would pay for, but you had to stay at the company for X years after. If you didn't, then you owed them the back value for it. So for all the Terrelle Pryors in the world, we'll give "revenue sharing", but if you leave the program early, you're on the hook for all your tuition costs, plus all expenses incurred by the AD as part of your training. You are a sunk cost. Sign here please. Didn't think so.

I'm rambling, but my point is this: if we're arguing about making sweeping changes to address less than 1% of student-athletes, the I suggest the system is fine as it is.


June 7th, 2011 at 3:37 PM ^

I agree with you - a number of kids don't see the value of a degree.

Rather than moralize the right or wrong, though, I think that makes the "minor league" system make sense - we've tied Minor League Football to a College Education - the two have almost nothing to do with each other. Why force a kid with no interest in college to go to college in order to get the neccesary exposure to play professional football? We don't do it in baseball or hockey.


June 8th, 2011 at 10:09 AM ^

These points of data are helpful. It shows how incredibly unlikely it is for the millions of high school ball players to ever suit up for a major pro team. As you note it shows also how valuable having a college athletic scholarship actually is. It is sort of having a safety net. The realistic smart kids know this - they come to Ann Arbor hoping and wishing that maybe fate and fortune will strike and they might blossom into a NFL or NBA caliber player - if not well, coming here to school is pretty nice.

But the problem is that many athletes don't think this way. This is the way a 50 year old thinks - someone with experience with life and its many disappointments. Until it is all over, most kids don't ever believe that they couldn't make it; especially if one was all-state or a top player in high school.



June 7th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

Let the players take all the money they want, but not from the schools themselves.  Let boosters and the free market decide how much they all make.  The NCAA makes enough money, they won't lose any if players are allowed to accept money.  

As for a farm system, why should the NFL bother?  They already have a free one.


June 7th, 2011 at 1:54 PM ^

Aside from the legality issues, isn't that unfair to schools who don't necessarily have big time boosters? Won't this just allow the rich to get richer and vice versa?

Also, no I don't think they should have a farm system. If that were to happen you run the risk of NCAA football being completely mediocre, where half of the best athletes are split between the two. Much like NCAA baseball, I personally think, is dealing with.


June 7th, 2011 at 5:09 PM ^

This is one of the arguments I just don't get, but hear all the time.  The NCAA is a non-profit organization.  Yes they pay for staff, etc, but they aren't a business.  Neither is Michigan's AD or anyone else's AD. Most college football teams lose money.  There is no "owner" of the NCAA who reaps in profit and spends the money on yachts or whatever.


There's all this talk about these players "making millions" (even though the seats would be filled if we replaced every D1 team's roster with their equally ranked D2 team's roster) but there's never talk about what those millions are being spent on.  


These kids play in multimillion dollar practice facilities, they get coached by top-level coaches, they get tutors, free tuition, food, clothing, rent.  This is all regardless of how they perform on the field.  The football and basketball teams are the reason these kids are famous, not the other way around.  


June 7th, 2011 at 5:34 PM ^

Well, it's a non-profit that pays it's President over $1 million per year, conference commissioners as high as $2.5 million a year, and enables football and basketball coaches to make several million as well.

As I said elsewhere, free tuition, etc, only matters to those who actually want to go to college - not those that want entry into the NFL.


June 7th, 2011 at 1:38 PM ^

Additionally, people complain about these football players bringing in millions of dollars of revenue for the universities so they should be paid for their services. At 119 (ish) Division 1 teams times 85 scholarship players equals 10115. Assume 125 scholarship plus walk ons, times 119 equals 14875. I counted around 165 teams in Division II (including future teams), and although I don't know what the number of players is on a team, assuming conservatively 60, multiply that and that number is 9900 kids, with most probably not on full scholarship. Add those together and that is 24775. I would bet my bottom dollar most of those kids can't sell an autographed jersey for 200 bucks. Yes, I have seen less known UofM jerseys up at bars and such, but this is UofM, in a college town. Doubtful Whyoming players could sell their jerseys for as much as Pryor.

Yes, players like Pryor and Chris Webber (reminds me of the Fab Five Documentary were the sports journalist goes why would chris weber apologize? he put those fans in the seats. he sold those jerseys) are high recognition players. You don't put fans in those seats. The UofM basketball team does. Mary Sue does. Jalen Rose does. The ushers do. Sports are team efforts: Pryor and Webber are not the same player by themself on that court. Behind their respective institutions, fans, and most importantly teammates and coaches are they allowed to shine. Any pay scales should represent the fact that we are playing team sports, as in all (open to debate) things in life.


June 7th, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

Ya that was a bit emotionally gargled. My point was that of the 15,000-25,000ish Division I and II scholarship and walk-on football players, most can't sell their autographed jerseys for 200 bucks like Pryor can. Most people talk about compensating players and cite the revenue these players like Pryor and Webber are bringing into the program. Denard brings all kind attention and revenue, but should we pay him more than the rest of the players on the team? My point was these are inherently team-based sports/activities and paying the top-performing players only would be incrediblely unfair to the other kids who sacrifice to build these programs. Then if we are going to compensate the athletes, do we compensate them all? Only Division I athletes? Only Division 1 scholarship athletes? I think more can be done to help poorer athletes and their families, but I don't think compensating them will end the problems we are having currently. I think the system/NCAA could be tougher, I think programs could be created to aid and monitor athletes, but I think the big area one could make a dent in these problems is by reforming the coaching business aspect of college football.

Tha Quiet Storm

June 7th, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

This is an interesting question and I'm not exactly sure where I stand on it, but I do think that it sucks that guys like Marques Slocum and Demar Dorsey (very talented athletically but probably not quite cut out for a 4-year college) fall through the cracks and aren't given an equal shot at marketing their skills to their potential employers - NFL or other pro teams.  If the average H.S. graduate has skills or qualities that are in demand, he or she may decide that college isn't in their best interest and that they can go out and start their careers right away.  Basically, if an athlete isn't cut out for college, it seems unfair to force them to go to a JUCO or D-2/D-3 school when they could be using their talents to earn a living.


June 7th, 2011 at 2:20 PM ^

"Yes, players like Pryor and Chris Webber (reminds me of the Fab Five Documentary were the sports journalist goes why would chris weber apologize? he put those fans in the seats. he sold those jerseys) are high recognition players. You don't put fans in those seats. The UofM basketball team does. Mary Sue does. Jalen Rose does."

Does not compute.  Give them a COL stipend and allow the stars to endorse if they want to. 


June 7th, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

I'd be interested to see someone attack this from the other side:

Can anyone sensibly defend the status quo (IE, college provides the "minor league" for the NFL and NBA) without using the argument of  "that's how it's been"?

Why, neccesarily, do developmental football and basketball NEED to be tied to Universities nearly exclusively? Why does a kid need to take horseshit classes he doesn't care about for 1-3 years in order to play a sport that has nothing to do with it?

All arguments citing the odds of going pro are nice, but it's not society's place to force them to get a college education should their sporting careers fail. People say "well, nobody is making them go to college" - on the contrary, the current system basically does.

El Jeffe

June 7th, 2011 at 4:24 PM ^

Now we're getting somewhere. Your general point about taking horseshit classes and the reference above to Marques Slocum and Demar Dorsey are pretty damning, in my view. I can see only one argument for the status quo:

Minor league football would not be profitable.

However, I can imagine a number of explanations for why this might be true. On the one hand, the USFL, NFL Europe, and XFL (plus the 97 arena leagues that seem to open and fold every year) lend face validity to this argument. However, I would still be surprised if the Topeka Chiefs vs. Iowa City Bears couldn't fill some college stadium. Plus, with awesome graphic design, you'd be on your way.

Another version of this argument is that what makes football popular is emotional attachment. So, people watch baseball for the beer and hot dogs, and they watch basketball for the dunks. If you remove the emotional attachment from the game, no one will give a shit. I have no idea if this is true, and it seems like hockey is a pretty good example of a sport with lots of emotional attachment (especially in Canada) and a (I assume) thriving minor league system. Still, this is America, man.

In this economic climate, the risk involved in starting an entire league from scratch is too great. I could see this, now. But when did the NFL take off in popularity? Why didn't it happen then? And why hasn't the NBDL gone full minor league? I don't get that.


June 7th, 2011 at 4:42 PM ^

Minor League Baseball is extremely profitable, purely off the gate. I don't see why this wouldn't be.

Remember, this model isn't the same at the USFL or the XFL - Minor League players in hockey and baseball are paid by their parent club - not the minor league club. This would remove a ton of overhead, and remove the primary reason for the USFL dying (high salaries). The XFL also, largely, folded because Vince McMahon wanted HUGE profits, and when NBC walked away from the TV deal, that wasn't in the cards.