Last week I was listening to Cory Giger and he was talking about the whole Cam Newton situation (for those of you who live on the Moon, Newton is being investigated for asking for money to go to Auburn, or his family did, whatever). I think most people would agree that there is a major problem in college football (basketball as well) with players taking money from boosters. The real question is how do you stop it? There were plenty of ideas tossed around, which I will discuss briefly. There was one that really intrigued me, but I will get to that at the end.
Banned For Life
One idea is that if a player is caught they should be banned from football for life. This idea sounds pretty good in practice, but how long would the NFL agree to something like that. Yeah, they might use it to make an example of some lesser known player, but what would have happened if two years after Adrian Peterson got drafted if it came out that he accepted money? Would they really ban him for life? I bet the Vikings would be pissed. Also, the NFL and NCAA are not really connected, why would the NFL care about these kind of things.
Giger thinks that if a player is caught, they should be tossed in jail. He says it is fraud. I am not sure if this is fraud, but instead something else. I am sure Jason could weigh in on this one.
Steeper University Punishment
One caller suggested that if a player is caught, then the university should lose football forever. I think this one is a bit extreme, but maybe you could punish them for a year without football. Unfortunately, this could easily be exploited. Ohio State is going to have a super team next year? Someone could pretend to be a booster from the school and give a player a nice new car. BAM, no more Ohio State! Go PSU!!! Yeah, might not work out so well. Oh, and do not be so naive as to think it would be all that hard to fake being a booster from another university.
Minor League Football
This was the caller that really intrigued me. I realize this idea is pretty out there. He pointed out that college football has become just a stepping stone for the NFL. Instead of the players making any money though, the universities profit. His idea was for the NFL to set up a minor league system like baseball. I want to talk about this one for a bit.
There are about 120 FBS (Division 1A) schools out there. You could probably cut that in half (yeah some people would probably cry, but boo freakin’ hoo) and give each NFL team two minor league programs. Break them down to lower and upper (AA/AAA). Try to base the minor league teams close to their parent team. For this I will use Penn State and the Steelers. Also, if you are an east coast team, you should have a minor league program out west. Therefore the Steelers would have PSU as their AAA team and say someone like Oregon State. Whatever.
The big problem would be convincing the NCAA to give up control over their cash cow. The NFL would have to make a substantial offer. It would need to be something ridiculous, like $20,000,000,000. I am pretty sure the NFL has that kind of cash lying around, right? Look, ignore the numbers for a second.
The NFL would have to make a stipulation in every contract saying that players would have to pay the university (in this case Penn State) a 10% fee every year. If a player signs a megacontract in a few years for $120 million, guess what? The university gets $12 million of that. If the basic minor league contract is $75,000: the university gets $7500, which could be put to lowering tuition for actual students. This means the player is contractually tied to the university throughout his career. If he gets traded or signs elsewhere, it does not matter, he still pays the original university.
I know someone is going to say, well what if they want to get an education, that is what college football is really about. Yeah, I am sure that Cam Newton has a tough workload. Two gym classes and a basic math class. Real freakin’ hard. I realize many players take full advantage of their education, but many do not. Why waste the time and resources?
Also, if once their football career is over and they decide to go back to school, the university gives them a free education (since they probably paid a ton of money during that time back to the school). I bet a 33 year old washed up linebacker would apply himself more than some 18 year old who knows he is going to the NFL someday.
I also realize that many people would say that if you are not a Steeler fan, why would you want to root for Penn State. Look, anyone that goes to the school would still want to be a fan. And, have you ever been to a minor league baseball game? When the Spikes were part of the Cardinals organization, people who were Pirates fans still rooted for the Spikes. It is a local thing.
What about those schools that lose out? Well you give them a nice payoff and shut them up. The schools can still have club football. Just no longer going out and recruiting or trying to spend tons of money to build a football program. Also, since the games are still played on campus, all the money that comes from Beaver Stadium would still go to the university. Also, students still get discounted tickets.
The next question is, how would this work during the actual season? You implement NFL rules (no more one foot in for possession or automatically down if you touch the ground), you break them down into conferences and divisions similar to the NFL. You try your best to keep rivalries intact: Michigan plays Ohio State every year, etc.
Once the playoffs end, the championship game for AAA would be held the weekend before the Super Bowl (I think they had the Pro Bowl there this year, get rid of the Pro Bowl). Also, you might as well make the Super Bowl on a Saturday because no one likes going to work hungover.
I realize there are plenty of problems with this idea, but it is fun to think about.