On Monday, Clemson decisively defeated Alabama for the College Football National Championship. The Tigers overcame the Crimson Tide 44-16. Not only did Clemson defeat the almighty "Bama," Clemson sent a strong message defeating them by 28 points. Leading Clemson to victory was true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence undisputedly emerged as the star of the game. He threw three touchdown passes and amassed 347 passing yards. Accordingly, Lawrence’s performance was truly unprecedented. He defeated the most powerful team in college football who boasted a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback.
After the game, sports fans and commentators began criticizing the fact that Lawrence is ineligible for the upcoming NFL draft. Critics argued that it is unfair that players do not have the option to enter the draft when they see fit. Similarly, they argue that is not fair that elite athletes are told when they may go professional and make money off of their athletic abilities.
Division 1 college football is a billion-dollar industry. However, the athletes who propel that industry receive essentially no compensation above a cost-of-attendance scholarship. However, the coaches make millions of dollars each year. Perhaps, the real issue is not when Lawrence or other similarly situated players should be eligible for the NFL draft. Perhaps the real issue is why playing professionally is the only option such players have to make money for their athletic abilities?
Why is Trevor Lawrence Ineligible for the NFL Draft?
Lawrence is ineligible for the draft because the NFL's rules say a player is not draft eligible until he is three years removed from his high school graduating class. Proponents of the rules argue that they are in place to protect future NFL prospects from prematurely entering the league before they are physically ready. However, opponents believe that it is unfair that Lawrence and other NFL prospects do not have the option to start their professional careers whenever they see fit. Accordingly, fans and critics argue that Lawrence and other NFL prospects should have the ability to chose when to start their NFL careers.
Perhaps elite athletes should have the ability to freely decide when to turn pro. However, this issue is not the real injustice. The real injustice is the fact that elite NFL prospects cannot make money off their athletic abilities while in college. This is especially true given the fact that the coaches make millions off of the labor of the athletes.
Coaches Make Millions From the Labor of Elite Talent, While the Talent has to Wait for a Professional Career That May Never Manifest.
Take the two coaches who were in the championship game for instance. Those two coaches were Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Alabama's Nick Saban. Saban's base salary was $7.5 million. He made an additional $400,000 for appearing in the CFP semifinal game. Even though the Crimson Tide lost, Saban still cleared an additional $600,000 just for appearing in the championship game. Swinney's base salary for the season was $6 million. He received an additional $200,000 for his CFP semifinal appearance. Since Clemson won the championship, Swinney will receive an additional $250,000.
Meanwhile, the labor force (the football players) that makes these incredible salary numbers possible receives a very small amount in comparison. A scholarship for a college education is invaluable. However, when compared to coaches' salaries, television deals, and other sponsorships, does it really seem fair that athletes are limited to their scholarship?
The Focus Should be on Lawrence’s Inability to Profit off his Athleticism in College Instead of on his Inability to go to the NFL
It is not fair for athletes to have wait to reach the NFL to be adequately compensated for their athleticism. What if a player suffers a career ending injury before he is eligible for the NFL? Such a player would never have the opportunity to be adequately compensated for his athletic ability. It is for this reason that the conversation should be focused on college athletes’ rights to receive adequate compensation in college.
Yes, an injured player may have a degree. It is also true that the degree could yield high earnings for the player in the future. However, the injured player would still have missed the opportunity to be adequately compensated for his athleticism in college. Meanwhile, his coach made millions in games that the injured player's labor largely contributed to.
There is a lot of money in Division 1 college football. This is evident from the coaches’ salaries. More of that money should be funneled down to the labor force who makes it all possible. It would be nice if Lawrence had the ability to opt for the NFL. However, it would be better if he could receive more for the fruits of his labor while in college. At the very least, Lawrence and other similarly situated athletes should be allowed to profit off of their own name, image, and likeness. Therefore, the conversation should be about Lawrence’s ability to receive his worth while in college instead of his ability to go to the NFL.