The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about

Brandon Wade

So, this isn't really a Vanderbilt-specific post. But in the hubbub surrounding Johnny Manziel, the Ed O'Bannon case, and really, a whole lot of other stuff, there's been something that's missing from the entire conversation about the NCAA's rules on amateurism.

Whatever you might think of the NCAA's amateurism rules, that the players can't profit off themselves while they're in college, something that's entirely missing from the conversation is this: The NCAA does not operate in a vacuum.

The NCAA operates in a world in which the NFL, in all its infinite wisdom, has decided that football players must be out of high school for three years before declaring for the NFL draft, and one in which the NBA has decided that aspiring basketball players must be 19 years old and a year removed from their high school graduation before declaring for the NBA draft.

Now, the NBA isn't really as big of an issue, as it doesn't have a monopoly on professional basketball the way that the NFL does on professional football. If you don't want to spend a year in college playing for free, you can go play professionally overseas, or you can play in the D-League. Those avenues are available. But you'll notice that few seem to be arguing that college baseball players or golfers should be paid. Ignoring for a second that those sports don't bring in anywhere close to the amount of money that football and basketball do (in fact, many universities operate those programs at a loss), there's a simpler reason that college baseball players don't need to be paid: if they want to get paid, they can go play in the minor leagues.

The unfairness of the situation is not that the NCAA doesn't allow athletes to be paid, but at least when it comes to football, there literally is no alternative to playing for no pay for 18-21 year old football players. If a 19-year-old golfer has a problem with playing for no compensation, he can turn pro. But that's not the case for a 19-year-old football player.

Yet, the entire amount of pressure to change is on the NCAA and not the NFL. Let's be honest: yes, Johnny Manziel should be allowed to profit off himself and his ability to throw a football. But he should be doing that in the NFL; the problem is that the NFL won't let him.

And, before you say that the NFL wouldn't draft a player out of high school anyway, there was a time when we said that about NBA teams, too. You can't tell me that if a top high school player declared for the NFL draft, some team wouldn't take a late-round flyer on him and see if he develops into something.

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