Monday, May 08, 2006

The Quarter System and the NFL

The Plain Dealer has an interesting article up about how OSU's academic schedule causes problems for Buckeye players drafted by the NFL, and especially undrafted free agents looking to make a team.
The rule, enforced by the NFL and created with the encouragement of the American Football Coaches Association in 1990, limits players to one minicamp with his NFL team while school is still in session. Most colleges, which hold commencement by the middle of May, aren't affected because school's out by the second round of minicamps.

Not so for colleges on the quarter system that don't hold spring exams until June. No school has more players affected than Ohio State, which had 35 players in the NFL at the start of last season and is sending 14 more to pro camps this year, nine as drafted players and five more as free agents.

While players like first-round picks A.J. Hawk of Green Bay and Santonio Holmes with Pittsburgh may fall a bit behind, the players hurt most by missing 10 to 15 early practices are the free agents hoping to catch a coach's eye.

"Santonio Holmes is going to be a Pittsburgh Steeler no matter what," said agent Jeff Chilcoat. "For guys more on the fringe, you're several weeks behind someone else at that same position. I believe if you have two guys even up, and one guy has an extra three or four weeks in the system, that's an advantage."
That's pretty much the problem all OSU students have trying to find summer jobs, except that instead of a summer job flipping burgers or running a cash register, we're talking about making the roster of an NFL team. When I apply for internships or for a job after college, I don't have to worry so much about finishing the school year later than other schools, because anyone that's hiring me is able to wait that extra month, especially since I'll be able to work a month longer than someone from a school that's on semesters. But places needing immediate help for the summer want the help as soon as possible, so it's not uncommon for an OSU student to go home for the summer and find that most of the jobs they would have applied for have been filled.

The NFL is in the same boat as those businesses. If you're in the front office of an NFL franchise, you need to get the best players you can afford as quickly as possible. You don't have time to wait and see whether a rookie defensive tackle from a school on quarters will end up being better than the rookie from a school on semesters, because by the time you know, it might be too late. So it's a tough situation for the undrafted OSU football players looking to make a team.

But at the same time, these guys need to consider the value of finishing up school and getting that degree. Sure, they could go back later and get their degrees, but will they? I have to think that wrapping up your education while still accustomed to taking classes (and with the university paying for it) is easier than coming back five or ten years after the fact.

Is it worth risking a roster spot to get a degree? Maybe not. But then, if one of these guys ends up out of the league in a few years and looking for a job just like you and me, maybe it is.


Zick said...

That's what's great about the free market: letting people judge for themselves what decisions to make.

Sean said...

Good point.

But on a semi-related note, how much of a free market is football? If someone wants to pursue a career in the NFL, they (basically) have to play college football for three years, then move on to the NFL, the land of revenue-sharing and salary caps.

Part of the reason football, both college and NFL, works so well is that it's not a free market. We get the required three years from each great player in college football, then the NFL has given us a system where each team's on nearly-equal ground in terms of the money they spend. Without these restrictions, we might be left with lower-quality players in college football and an NFL where the playoffs are populated by major-market teams that outspend the competition.

It's kind of tough to reconcile my favorite sport with my favorite economic system sometimes.

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