Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk reports that the NFL is considering making academic eligibility a prerequisite to an invitation to the league’s Scouting Combine. The news, first reported by CBSSport’s Bruce Feldman, is in response to a growing number of voices criticizing the league for not taking the academic success of its recruits seriously.
Would adopting such a change lead to more players taking their college education more seriously? Not according to Florio. He explains that banning ineligible players from the Combine will, in the long run, not improve graduation rates among football prospects but will instead increase recruitment and scouting costs for the teams.
By excluding the players deemed most likely to be drafted from Indianapolis, the NFL would only be making the scouting process more cumbersome and expensive for its teams. The primary benefit of the Scouting Combine comes from bringing all of the top prospects and all of the teams to the same place, reducing significantly the costs of the medical review and creating an opportunity to talk to as many players as possible, either via the normal interview rotation or the loosely-organized (and lesser-known) “train station” conversations, which in theory allows a sufficiently diligent team to register face time with every player.
As Florio notes, being ineligible will not actually mean that the player can not enter the draft, but that he cannot attend the Combine. In all, Florio dismisses the move as a cheap PR ploy designed to cater to the fans who are demanding steps be taken to prevent a repeat of the Aaron Hernandez saga.
Hernandez, the former tight end for the New England Patriots was recently charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd. Although initially considered a first-round draft pick, Hernandez dropped to the 4th round in the 2010 draft due to character issues and a number of failed drug tests during his college years before being picked by the Patriots.
So while it’s good that the NFL is considering ways to prevent future Aaron Hernandezes from being employed by NFL teams when they allegedly commit murder or other mayhem, banning academically ineligible players from the Scouting Combine won’t do anything to accomplish the goal.
Unless the goal is to generate some P.R. that will make the casual fan think the NFL is serious about the problem. If the NFL really is serious about the problem, however, this isn’t the way to solve it.