HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, PA - AUGUST 20: Terrelle Pryor throws during his pro day at a practice facility on August 20, 2011 in Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
As if you hadn’t heard, today is the NFL Supplemental Draft. As we have seen, Colts personnel have visited the big name in this draft. But that’s not what this story is about. If you look at the history of the Supplemental Draft, most of the players taken are there because they couldn’t play for their college anymore. You see everything from graduating early and not declaring for the draft (on the good side) to dropping/being kicked out of college after the draft for that year had taken place (on the not so good side).
For a great story on using the Supplemental Draft to its fullest, check out the story on Bernie Kosar, his agent AJ Fagin and the Cleveland Browns which involves our own Papa Polian during his tenure with the Bills. You can read a small bit from the Draft Wikipedia article HERE.
It came as no surprise to me that the NFL declared recent troubled former college QB Terrelle Pryor eligible for today’s Supplemental Draft. He fits right in with the majority of people involved in this draft. What did surprise me was the memo that was released by the NFL on Thursday, when they set the date for this draft.
It’s sad to me to look at all the problems that have come to the limelight recently regarding eligibility rules in the NCAA. Time and time again, innocent players get the brunt of the punishment for the sins of the past. Reggie Bush breaks the rules under Pete Carroll at USC. Neither Bush nor Carroll gets penalized because they are in the NFL making millions. While the story on Miami has some names from the current roster, by the time the NCAA decides what to do to "The U" those players will likely have moved on.
Who is responsible for punishing the guilty parties in these cases? What can be done to level the playing field in college sports? My answer is the NFL.
When students leave college, the NCAA loses all ability to punish them. They are no longer governed by those rules. Agree with the rules or not, it makes no difference. If you don't like the rule, you still need to follow it. The same happens to the coaches that see the smoke and run from the fire. Nothing has been done since these rules where written to give them teeth beyond a player's college career.
Finally we see some backing for the NCAA in its fight to eliminate this from their world. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Pryor for the first five games of next season in the NFL for "decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft." One of the coolest parts of the whole thing for me is that the NFLPA seems to be on board too. There may be an appeal down the line but so far there does appear to be collaboration.
I know many will say that the suspension is meaningless because, as a project player, Pryor wouldn’t have played in the first five games anyway. That may be the case, but the meaning goes deeper than that. The only way to limit what is going on in the college ranks is for there to be tangible repercussions for the people that commit these actions. If coaches and player can run to the NFL and never feel any recourse, what’s the deterrent? We cannot rely on a sense of right and wrong from 18 year olds with millions being waved in their faces. The NFL is powerful enough to help make this problem go away.
My hope is that this is the first step of many where the NFL and NCAA will work together to clean up the problems in the football world. Breaking the rules must have a consequence. Right now, there are none. This is the first time an "NFL" player has been punished for what he did to hurt his college and the young men who are there to play football after him. This cannot go back and happen retroactively, but it should happen from now on. I applaud Goodell and the NFLPA for getting on board with this.
The NFL does not have a minor league system that falls under its direct supervision, as baseball does. The NCAA ranks become that system. I would like to see cooperation between the NFL, NFLPA and the NCAA grow in size to keep amateurism in college sports. I would love to see a system put in place where this type of collaborative effort happens all the time. Let's punish the guilty and not let the rules become meaningless.