Roundtable: Should College Football Players Skip Bowl Games For NFL Draft Prep

Should college football players skip bowl games for NFL Draft preparations? The Campus Insiders editorial staff weighs in.

With the likes of Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Shock Linwood sitting out their respective bowl games in order to concentrate on the NFL Draft, there has been an outpouring of emotion from journalists, coaches and fellow players regarding the decision. There’s merit to both sides of the argument, and it’s one more grey area in an already cloudy arena of amateurism.

Should the athletes sit out? Should they play one final game alongside their brothers in arms? With no shortage of passion, the Campus Insiders editorial team debates.

Jonathan Bass

I’m not really sure why there has been such an outpouring of criticism (not to mention terribly unfunny jokes) from the media on this subject. Coaches I get – they want to field the best possible team and use bowl games as a jumping off point for the following season. For the media to react with such aggravation – why? Because you can’t cover Player X one final time? It’s a bummer, but them’s the breaks, Chip. Be glad you have a paying job that affords you the opportunity to cover sports.

This really is one more ruse about the purity of collegiate athletics and amateurism. At this point in their careers, let’s just call a spade a spade: players are independent contractors looking to get paid for an indeterminate amount of time until their bodies break down.

As for the NFL coaches and GMs who have a problem with players sitting out, please save us your feigned indignation (looking at you, Bruce Arians). For a league that’s interview practices in the past have involved asking players if their mothers are prostitutes, if their family members do hard drugs, and a variety of questions to sniff out a player’s sexuality, there is no moral high ground in the National Football League.

Anyone who drops Leonard Fournette on a draft board for sitting out a meaningless game – while conveniently forgetting that this is a man who battled the NCAA for the right to donate a game-worn jersey to raise money for South Carolina flood victims – is a buffoon. The second he succeeds on the field his rookie year, any and all questions (at least from the professional ranks) about missing an exhibition will be moot. The only thing that matters in sports is what happens on the field, and all these guys – Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Shock Linwood – have proven more than capable – just check the tape.

Robert Judin

If you’re upset about a player skipping his team’s bowl game, get over it. Here’s the reality of the situation, folks. If that player gets drafted by your favorite team and starts balling out on Sundays, you won’t even remember how upset you were that he skipped out on on an exhibition game with no added incentive for what happens in it. The university already has money in its pockets.

These players put their bodies at risk for at least three years and now they’re catching heat for making a smart business decision. I don’t want to hear about how Christian McCaffrey or Leonard Fournette are quitting on their teams. If their teammates are okay with them skipping their bowl games, the public should have absolutely zero problem with it.

Football is a game, yes. But it’s a business first. Ask any other player whose NFL career began with an injury and never flourished. There are no moral victories in football. There are only wins, losses and dollars, with the latter being the hardest to come by.

Dave Miller

I had been trying to avoid this topic all week, as I still was not sure which side of the argument I fell on. But after a few days of pondering the early departures of stars such as Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, I fully understand their decisions to begin preparation for the next phase of their lives.

As a college football purist, there’s no question that I would love to see these stars play one last time. And there’s no question that their fellow students, fans, et al. would love to see them suit up for a final game with their teammates. But head coaches leave their teams early when they take on a new gig after a standout season, so elite players that are likely first-round draft picks shouldn’t be faulted if they opt to do the same. While injuries such as the one Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith suffered in last year’s Fiesta Bowl are thankfully rare, the possibility does exist that a top collegiate player with NFL aspirations could suffer a devastating injury in a bowl game.

Do these “non-title” bowls mean the same as a College Football Playoff game? That depends on who you ask. Players on the Eastern Michigan team are likely very ecstatic that they are playing in the Bahamas Bowl, while players on a 4-loss Power Five team that had CFP aspirations in the preseason may be a bit disappointed that they are playing in an “exhibition” weeks after the regular season ended—especially those that are moving onto the next level.

Fournette and McCaffrey have been injured this year, so there should be no hard feelings about them sitting out the bowl game. And, even if they were both 100 percent healthy, they should have every right to move on from their college program without anyone spewing venom onto them. Does it stink for the college game? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that these players aren’t doing the smart thing by leaving a little earlier than expected.

Glenn McGraw

Yes. 1,000,000,000,000,000% Coaches skip bowl games all. the. time. And nothing is said about that when they get new job offers. It’s just a step up in their professional career. Well, that’s exactly what it is for the players as well.

Why should a player participate in a meaningless game that could cost thousands, or even millions, of dollars and jeopardize his professional career? Next thing he knows he’s sitting next to us fans in the rat race trying to scale the corporate ladder for $45,000 per year all because he blew out his knee in the Idaho Potato Bowl.

It’s absolutely hypocritical that they are being scrutinized for this. But thus is the way with sports, where real-world issues are slid under the rug all for a better on-field product. Sports are hypocritical. Some may argue the whole “finish what they signed up for,” but players leaving early and not finishing their college education is part of the system that’s been created, and some players sitting out may have already completed their degree.

Football is a business for universities, which are profiting greatly off players, so in return it should be a business for the players. If a player has a once-in-a-lifetime shot at making a fortune, absolutely sit out a meaningless game. Not everyone gets that, and it’s not worth blowing the opportunity.

Kurt Schwerman

Pretty sure I’m the odd man out here, but I think it’s bull that these guys are all of a sudden deciding to skip their teams’ bowl game.

Now, before I go any further, I understand the arguments made by my coworkers, and they are all fair and full of good points. However, I’m a team player kind of guy. When you’ve got a football team like Stanford or LSU, for example, that has played twelve hard-fought (sometimes thirteen) games with the sole mission of making a bowl game, and then all of a sudden your best player says “Nah, I’m gonna sit this one out so that I can prepare for the April draft,” to me that’s a major low-blow.

If I were a teammate of a player who did this, I’d be pissed. I would understand the reasoning, but it’s a team game and each of those players is in it together. Putting yourself before the team is something that never sat well with me, especially in a situation like this.

Brian Stultz

I have been vocal on this issue, but here are the Cliff Notes: the hypocrisy that exists where a coach can skip a game and not receive any flak but a student-athlete, looking out for their future, decides to do the same and is heavily criticized, is unconscionable.

Why can’t these athletes look out for their futures, the same way, oh, Tom Herman did by leaving Houston for the Texas job and not coaching the Cougars in their bowl game? Of course that is rarely brought up. Every coach that speaks out against players doing this needs to a long look at himself in the mirror the next time a better job opportunity presents itself.

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