Delany: Let Athletes Bypass College

By DJ Byrnes on September 26, 2013 at 10:18a
Jim Delany

From ESPN:

"Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks," Delany said. "If they're not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say, 'We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.' Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don't ask us what we've been doing.

"If an athlete wants to professionalize themselves, professionalize themselves. We've been training kids for professional sports. I argue it's the color, I argue it's the institution. If you think it's about you, then talk to John Havlicek about that, you've got to talk to Michael Jordan about that. These brands have been built over 100 years."

Delany said a restructuring plan in college sports must be in place by next spring to create better balance educationally and more options, including increasing the value of athletic scholarships. He said the major conferences need the "legislative autonomy" to push through some major changes.

Delany could very well be onto something here. Nobody ever clamors for NCAA baseballers to be paid, why? Because they have the alternative route of the minor leagues. Lost in most "pay collegiate athletes" discussions is the blood on the hands of the likes of the NFL and NBA, who basically use colleges as de-facto (free) training and scouting grounds.

Delany has also shown he intends to be one driving the change, because doing so will allow the change to be on his terms. That's probably a good thing for the B1G.


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hodge's picture

Not a bad idea.  Let the best-of-the-best talents go straight to the pros, rather than being fought over by top programs.  You'll probably see some cream-of-the-crop talent off the board abroad, but top programs will be able to still draw talent by selling their top-tier training--especially if the alternative is a D-League contract of a practice-squad salary.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

This is what I've been calling for, especially for basketball.  It may be a little more difficult for football since it is more physical, but a minor league football (such as the USFL or whatever league Mau. Clarett and T. Smith were playing in Omaha) wouldn't be too bad.
The brand of college football and basketball wouldn't take much of a hit despite losing some of the high end talent.  The Ohio Stadiums of the world would still be packed, and the Nippert Stadiums would still be 60% full.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

tennbuckeye19's picture

From a practical standpoint, how many high school kids could actually go straight into the NFL without playing any college ball? 

DJ Byrnes's picture

I don't think you'd see kids jumping straight from high school to NFL fields. In European soccer, (which I think should be used as a model) club teams have youth and reserve teams, along with their A-1 squad. 

I think something like that would be needed.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Or the baseball model (for those of us that like baseball better than soccer... the horror).  High school kids either go straight to the minor league system (get drafted) or make a commitment to attend college for at least three years. 

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

Idaho Helga's picture

I actually think if something like this happened it might be more like hockey but would require high school graduation.  It would also be better attended than hockey because, well, it's not hockey.

TheBadOwl's picture

The NFL would definitely develop a minor league type system, or youth academies. Which means that the draft would quite possibly go away after a while.
I think it's easier for the NCAA or corporate sponsors to pay for a stipend for players, or set up signings where the players make a flat rate.
The problem with letting, say, Johnny Football profit off of his own likeness and sell his autograph at market value is that boosters would absolutely raise up that market value, and this would become a recruiting pitch at the bigger schools. There have to be regulations in place.
The system is broken, and if the NCAA is going to make money off of these kids, they deserve a cut as well. But outside of basketball, I don't really think that letting kids enter the pros solves anything.
Look at baseball -- it's very unlikely that the average drafted player will ever make the majors. In fact, with the exception of high draft picks, they're usually hardly getting any money, plus few, if any, get to take college classes in the offseason. I think there are something like 7 players in the majors with college degrees. That's total, not per team. (I could be wrong here.)

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

I think there are something like 7 players in the majors with college degrees. That's total, not per team. (I could be wrong here.)

I see that as overwhelmingly preferable to the current alternative in football where athletes are forced to attend Universities who would not be accepted as students based solely on academic merit.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Isn't that the point of college though (whether academic or athletic) to prepare you for the next step in your career and maximize your earnings potential?

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

No. The chief purpose of Universities is the advancement of knowledge. They are not merely vocational institutions.
A college education is not directly applicable to a football career any more than it is for those that rely on the apprenticeship model (carpentry, metal work, electrical & similar trades).

New alum's picture

It seems to me that you actually forward Delany's point. If the kid can make it on his own, then let him brand himself and move forward. But if the kid realizes he needs to play college sports to develop his potential, then he is getting something from the university (beyond the full ride scholarship he likely already receives). To cite the baseball example of few players that are drafted actually making the majors seems to me to suggest that it is one of the missions of universities to produce professional athletes. I disagree. I would love to see more balance to the student-athlete in college sports, and it seems this could be a step in the right direction by creating a path for those that don't have any interest in school.

Proud Michigander, OSU grad. Life is complicated.

brandonbauer87's picture

It makes a lot more sense than trying to determine each athlete's pay in college. A lot of kids will realize just how good they have it in college. 

Kurt's picture

Saw this last night, glad it make Buckshots.  Everything else is just noise, then Delany speaks.

Riggins's picture

This is a good solution for kids that don't appreciate the exorbitant cost of an education from a top tier university.  They could go and receive their pittance in cash and spend it on whatever frivolous shit they want to and be broke in 5 years.
Less than 1% of college players are worth more than what they're currently receiving in terms of tuition, board, food, training, insurance, etc.  There wouldn't be a huge drop off in terms of talent for college teams.

Maestro's picture

I don't think the NFL has much interest in creating a minor league system.  Therein lies the rub.  

vacuuming sucks

Kurt's picture

UFL?  MoC said something a couple years ago that comes close to what Delany is suggesting: let players go to the UFL to get paid and train to make the jump to the NFL.  

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Which is why players should be suing the NFL & NBA for their discriminatory age limits rather than the NCAA.
Of course the O'Bannon lawsuit isn't really about what's 'right' as it is about greed.

cronimi's picture

Of course they don't. Because it would cost money -- a lot of it. And right now, they're getting the NCAA "minor league system" for free. I think that was part of Delany's point. The NFL doesn't want to pay the players before they're ready to contribute, and the NCAA members don't want to pay more than what they're already paying (which, while perhaps not what some of the players are worth, is still a lot of money). But since the college players are the only ones with skin in the game that want players paid -- and they have very little leverage -- it probably won't happen.
One possible way for it to happen (maybe): If the NFLPA pushed the issue. Their membership were all, at one time, in the college players' shoes. If they put their skin in the game on behalf of the college players, they might have the leverage to make it happen. Of course, any money spent on the D league likely would come out of the money that could be spent on salaries for the NFL players, and they're not going to agree to that, so it isn't going to happen.

GrayDay's picture

Doesn't the NFL have the authority to do this now?  The NCAA couldn't block a pro development league even if they wanted to, right? 
With news organizations now trending toward support of paying college athletes, Delaney may be hoping to push the NFL into the debate to save them - making it known that the power schools have no problem with athletes wanting to get paid to have that avenue elsewhere.  

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

The NFL could, it just doesn't want to invest the money in what it perceives to be the necessary minor league system. The NFLPA is also on board because veteran players don't want to face the potential of increased competition (ie loss of income) from the additional younger players that would be in the system.

Maestro's picture

Yup, why spend money to create a minor league system when the NCAA does it for you?  Where is the motivation for the NFL to do anything?  There is none.

vacuuming sucks

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Hence my post about the need for a class action suit to apply the necessary pressure.

BoFuquel's picture

YES! YES! YES! And I agree with our Fearless Leader about as often as I approve of that Id-Yacht Dictator of The NCAA. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

wojodta's picture

No thanks. It would add too much parity to college football. There's probably not going to be anyone that could play in the NFL straight out of HS. Just pay a stipend and leave it at that.

Hovenaut's picture

I would welcome the idea, beats waiting on the NCAA to make a sound decision.

GoBucksToledo's picture

I couldn't agree more.  Let the pros set up their own D-league and fund it and put an end to the paying college students to play debate.

Bucksfan's picture

The only problem with his logic is that the NCAA paired up with the NFL and NBA to support legislation that prevents kids of a certain age from going professional in order to protect the financial interests of both colleges and pro leagues.  The NFL is not about to take on the burden of spending more millions of dollars on high-risk athletes in order for colleges to maintain amateur status.
It's all well and good that Delany has taken this passive aggressive approach to the discussion, but it's not really sincere.  He's actually being fascitious, even though it sounds exactly like things that fans have been seriously saying for a long time.  I don't buy it.

elitesmithie's picture

I like the idea of being able to enter the pros out of high school but if you go to college you have to stay 2/3 years. That way we don't have the 1 and done nonsense and it will allow the elite and ready to go pro right away. Problem solved.

Wilkins78's picture

"who basically use colleges as de-facto (free) training and scouting grounds."  
How is this a drastic difference from any other employer?  Do we differentiate because they don't hand out "Football" degrees?  In fact, I would say it's much better at advertising a person's skill for their prospective employer than almost any other field.  How many people here have had an unpaid internship?  I feel like the lost part of this argument is that attending and playing for a college/university adds (considerable) value for an athlete, just like it does for any other profession, and this is rarely quantified along with the (already substantial) scholarships and perks that come with being a student-athlete.  I'm generally in agreement with Delaney on both points here. Get rid of the mandatory 1 or 3 years so that, if nothing else, the perception that the NCAA or its member schools are forcing these kids to be indentured servants is lessened.  No need to create any kind of farm system for the NFL, if they think they're good enough and that their face or signature can make money, then best of luck to you, go train or play elsewhere, if you'd prefer to better yourself and make yourself more attractive to an NFL team or pursue other dreams/careers, follow the rules.  I have a hunch people will be buying OSU jerseys regardless.  It just might be a different number.  
I try to keep an open mind on things, but so far I haven't heard an argument that has convinced me that this issue is anything other than greed and a complete lack of the capacity for delayed gratification in a vocal minority.  Are there problems with the system, of course.  Is it the non-functional, evil monstrosity enslaving student-athletes that people make it out to be?  I'm just not seeing it.

Squirrel Master's picture

I like most of how baseball has it. Let the kid enter the draft, let the kid get an agent instead of being hounded all 3-4 years by multiple agents. Let the kid make money outside of football through endorsements and signings.
College programs don't have to pay anyone! These kids can make money on their own, well Manziel and Braxton could. I say let them declare for the draft, if a team wants them and develops them (I'm certain a team would have drafted Clowney in the first 3 rounds straight out of HS) then fine. If they don't get drafted, don't block them from getting into a college program just because.
I have always thought it was the dumbest thing for Clarett and others to declare and they get blocked from coming back just because. Its not like they actually played a game or even got drafted, so why would they not be eligible as an amateur. (and yet baseball players who spent a few years in the minors making bank can come play football without issue, HUH?)

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Delaney has it right. I would propose to the NFL and the NBA that they consider allowing kids to go straight to the pros with a high school diploma or GED while offering developmental leagues that require an education on personal finance, investing, and social interaction/sociology courses to help them with the challenges and scrutiny that comes with being a professional athlete in our society.  A college education is great, but realistically, a degree in Sociology or African-American studies doesn't teach them how to handle the media and conflict as well as handling their business on a financial level.  Nor does it really score you a good job either, but I digress.  There are so many ex-pro athletes that are broke and/or bankrupt because they blew their money and shot their credit while rich and now don't have a pot to piss in.  But what do I know as a casual sports fan...

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

EnlistedBuckeye's picture

While the SEC as a whole is clamoring for a pay the players system...the B1G Ten is just up here like "Yo I think our players should be taught the value of integrity, and education".
Core values from across the country are no more polar opposite than the south and the Midwest.

Jeeves's picture

One of the core values that brought the Big and Pac together to form the Rose Bowl pact was the ideal of the student as scholar athlete and the rejection of professionalism in collegiate athletics. The SEC at the time was pushing for semi-professionals on the grid iron. Not much has changed in 67 years.

BucksfanXC's picture

I'm not listening to him because he's pretty biased in this situation. He's making some of the money the players should be. If he admits he should be sharing some of the profits, he has to take a pay cut.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

unholy bucknut's picture

It's definitely an idea worth mulling over but wouldn't that lower the competition we see in the NCAA today when all the top recruits enroll into the minor leagues of football.

jmoore3309's picture

I agree with Delaney 100%.  I also don't necessarily think a full development league is necessary.  NFL teams already have practice squads, why not expand that to include a development component with a greatly reduced salary structure.  Those with the talent, now have the ability to capitalize without the burden of having to actually better themselves intellectually.  

Go Bucks!

buckskin's picture

I have been saying this for years; let the players choose right out of high school.  Give them that option.   If you think you're good enough to go pro, choose that route, whatever route it may end up being (D-league, soccer or baseball style farm system).  We should not be trying to pay players in college, that would destroy the game as we know it.  I would also like to add that if you choose the college over the pro system (if this ever happens), then you would be required to honor your commitment to the school and stay for 4 years.
I was shocked to hear Delany say this because it makes good sense. 

FROMTHE18's picture

Even the most elite HS prospect would get destroyed in the NFL; with injuries being such a priority, those kids would get hospitalized, especially WRs and QBs. Rookies struggle to adapt to the pro ranks, itd be 10x worse for an HS senior.