As an increasing number of potential professional football players are choosing to sit out their teams' bowl games, the question has arisen about whether the practice is acceptable. I'll cut to the chase here and state that "of course it is". Last season, the promising career of Notre Dame's All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith took a serious hit when he suffered a nasty knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State that sent his draft stock plummeting, and with it, a significant amount of potential income. To listen to some analysts, the trend could kill college football and result in a plethora of players opting to stay on the sidelines for their team's bowl game. First of all, let's take a look at the numbers. There are currently 128 FBS teams, with 85 scholarship players on each team. That's a total of 10,880, and it doesn't count any FCS or Division II schools. So if we assume roughly 25% of them are eligible for the draft in any one season, that's 2,720. Thirty-two teams have seven draft picks, totaling 224, meaning that roughly 8% of eligible players will get drafted, and once again, that only includes FBS totals. So my point is that the numbers alone indicate that very few players, realistically no more than a couple per school, would be in a position to benefit from sitting out the bowl game, especially if a good performance could enhance their draft position. Many of these players are looking to take time to prepare for the combine as well, so an additional month of preparation could definitely help. If they're fourth or fifth year players, they will have more than earned their scholarship and helped their team on the field. Besides, many programs would prefer to use the bowl game to prepare for the following season, and having players in the lineup that won't be there doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense.
In the BCS era, preseason rankings were very important because they were used to determine the two best teams. But with a committee that doesn't even meet until mid-season, winning a bowl game to position themselves for the following season's polls isn't necessary. It's probably more important to get practice and game time for the replacements for the departing players, especially for units like the offensive line that thrive on cohesiveness and consistency. Some schools even go as far to excuse seniors from some of the early practices in order to concentrate on the future. Do you believe most schools, especially the ones that are in the lower payout range, want a bowl bid for the money or publicity? Probably not, as many don't have much money left over after paying for transportation, food and lodging for the players, coaches and other staff members. The driving factor is to get those extra 15 practices to get a head start for the following season.
Another key point is that while there seems to be some level of controversy over the student - athletes' decisions to sit out a game, no one seems to be critical of the coaches that take a job at another school between the end of the season and the bowl games. Last season, Justin Fuente of Memphis State committed to the head coaching job at Virginia Tech, while Tom Herman at Houston did the same with Texas this year. I've heard very little criticism of them, while you would think Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery committed some type of mortal sin. I don't see it as a big deal either way, it's just the way the sport and business works. Besides, I believe there a lot more important issues facing the world than whether current millionaires switch jobs or future ones decide to skip a bowl game.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at email@example.com.