I think we would all agree that college football is a great thing. It's fun for us, the fans, it employs an awful lot of people, it serves as a medium that brings people together like few other things can, and it provides a way for student-athletes to have their college educations paid for while playing the game that they love. It's a beautiful system that does good things for all involved.
I don't want to take that away. Again, it's a great thing that should absolutely be retained. But the world is different from what it was when the system was developed, and it's pretty badly in need of an...update.
See, when the system was developed back in 1950, it really was meant to be a means for getting an education. It was a way for a student to go to college, invest themselves in their studies as well as athletics, and see some assistance from the school for contributing to the school's sports teams. Fantastic.
The problem is, the world has changed in the years since. Specifically, the world of football has changed. The amount of money available in football today is monumental. In 1990, Joe Montana set a record by being the first player to ever make $4 million in one season. To be the highest-paid player in the league 25 years ago, now would mean being a below-average player on the pay scale -- though it's still a ton of money.
There's a book called "Freakonomics" that studies why people make the decisions that they make, and it actually looks at football as one of its case studies. For any high school quarterback, statistics say that there is an astronomically low chance that he'll make it to the NFL based on the number of high school QBs who do make it that far. So why on Earth would he put all of his eggs in the football basket, more or less ignoring his education and basically having no backup plan in life if football doesn't work out? Look no further than the salaries available to him in the NFL nowadays. Sure, he knows there's a chance he won't make it (although his self-confidence likely affects how small that chance really looks to him), but then again...what if he does make it?
Thus, you end up with a number of kids who are, by definition, student-athletes -- but in reality, just athletes. The classroom is not something that football enables them to do, the classroom is something that enables them to play football. That's where the problem lies -- it's no longer about an education and preparing for a future aside from football. It's now all about making that NFL money, whether it works out or not. It's how you end up with Bag Men influencing where they go to school, because no longer is the name of the university or field of study on the diploma of any relevance to these individuals. It's all about football.
Now, again, that's a relatively small set of players. There are plenty of players who are there for the right reasons, challenging themselves in the classroom and knowing the importance of education. But in the Power 5 conferences, the amount of players there for football and only football is noticeable. Has Georgia Tech had players like that? I don't know, but probably.
My argument is this: if players just want to make money by playing football and don't really care about their home economics degree from Big State U, why not let them play football? It doesn't have to be in the NFL, either. I understand the need for a buffer between high school and the NFL to let the body continue to develop, and I agree with it entirely. So why not put together a league similar to what the MLB and NBA have? I'm imagining a league where players can go to develop their football skills, they can get paid enough to make it worth it to them, and can avoid taking up seats in classes that other students would like to have but are unable to. What would be the harm in that? Heck, you could even include light classroom sessions designed for combatting the fact that 4 out of 5 NFL players are bankrupt within 5 years of retirement. Everyone gets what they want in a system like that.
Even Georgia Tech would get what it wants in a system like that, although I'd expect more in the form of collateral benefit. See, I don't think many players on Georgia Tech's team would be overly affected by this. I'd be willing to bet that less than 10 players on the team would be the types looking to go all-in on football, and my suspicion of that is largely based on the mindset that one has to have to survive academically at Georgia Tech, athlete or not.
That said, what I do think that a minor league like this would do is help to level the playing field, both in bringing down the level of competition and raising the general perception of a school like Tech. I think that a number of our constant opponents (Miami, Clemson, and uga, and Virginia Tech to a lesser degree) make a lot of hay in recruiting by selling that they are "football factories", constantly sending guys to the NFL and providing a means to train hard without worrying too much about the classroom. I think the kids most affected by this recruiting pitch are the four- and five-star recruits of the world, who I also think are the most talented players in the country by a noticeable margin over the 3-star recruits of the world. Clemson, Miami, and uga combined to sign 30 four- and five-star recruits in 2014. Imagine if 20-25 of those players were playing in a minor league, developing towards an NFL career like they probably hope to have one day. Don't you think that the talent gap between Tech and those three opponents would close a little bit?
There's a lot of moving pieces here that would affect football and otherwise, but this is just food for thought. I think minor league football would be really beneficial for all relevant parties. It's just up to someone to create and finance the league.
What are your thoughts on a potential "minor league" for football? Would that be good for Georgia Tech? Would it affect Tech at all?