I pass this on because it’s a subject that we have been discussing lately. Former coach Gerry DiNardo makes the case for allowing 18 year olds to play football professionally:
In June 2001, Mary Sue Coleman, then the president of the University of Iowa, was asking the same question. The Knight Commission — a watchdog group whose members include figures from the academic, athletic and journalism communities — was meeting to examine the issues facing college athletics. During the hearings, there was a presentation about a new minor league for college-age basketball players by Russ Granik, the deputy commissioner of the N.B.A. Granik told the commission members that the new league would include players age 20 or older, in order to avoid competing with the N.C.A.A. Coleman asked, “Why not take 18-year-olds?” She said that would give those athletes graduating from high school with no interest in a college education another option. Other commission members concurred, and Granik agreed it might be something to consider. […]
Another way to ask the question is, Why not treat high school football players like high school baseball players? Or even music students? I was the coach at Indiana University for 1,032 days. One of the things I came to learn about Indiana is that it has a great music school with very talented students, some of whom followed a nontraditional academic path. Some would graduate from high school and go directly into the music business and then enroll in the university a few years later. Some would enroll immediately after high school, then leave for a professional music opportunity; some would come back and others would not.
One of the things that we haven’t really talked about is that a number of college football athletes actually are professional athletes (in the legitimate sense). One of my school’s defensive backs was a minor league baseball player. I remember several years ago when Cedric Benson’s dorm was broken into and an expensive (at the time) flat-screen TV was stolen, a lot of people scoffed at how Benson could afford such a thing as an “amateur athlete.” The answer was that in the offseason, he was a part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. A minor league football player could actually go to college under a scholarship for some other sport. It wouldn’t be a full scholarship, but it might help. Plus, they might have some of the money to pay for college themselves, if that’s what they wanted to do.
This is more of an observation than an argument. All of the arguments in the world in favor of a minor league football system don’t measure up to the single, two-part argument against: Minor league sports lose money, and the NFL doesn’t have to lose that money.