This, by Matt Hayes at the Sporting News, was actually published yesterday, but since I haven't seen any angry reaction to it yet, I can only assume it's because we're all still so taken aback by the strangeness of a screed that wouldn't be out of place scrawled on a bathroom wall in feces. But you need to see it. Matt Hayes is sick and tired of college football players acting up, and he has a grand plan to keep them in line.
"Players can't seem to control themselves behaviorally off the field," Hayes wrote, presenting as a given a problem that doesn't seem to exist.
You want college football cleaned up? You want players who get second, third and fourth chances to finally see the game really is about both football and an education and learning about living and surviving and growing on your own? You want this seemingly endless string of player arrests and violence against women to end?
Hit the players where it matters most: future earnings.
The NFL can make this very simple and succinct. Any college player interested in employment in the league must pass a background check, and if they have a history of arrests or off-field issues, they immediately are moved into a — here's the key — significantly lower earning bracket for the first four years of their employment.
How significant? Well below league minimum, or about $50,000-$75,000 a year.
Holy shit! Matt Hayes seriously wants the NFL and the NFLPA to quite literally dock their players' salaries if they got into legal trouble in the years before they ever became NFL employees or dues-paying union members! This seems like a pretty serious violation of labor and contract laws, not to mention being pretty iffy on the human rights front.
Just so we're straight, Hayes very much seems to understand that the system is the thing that's screwed up here, that the financial calculus of college football encourages coaches and administrators to ignore bad behavior. But Hayes is more than willing to absolve the other actors in the system.
I've said it once and I'll say it a thousand more times: if you're a coach, and your job — your ability to earn and provide for your family — depends on winning games, are you really going to suspend a star player for poor behavior?
If you're a president of a university and your ability to fundraise for all of those important university projects that aren't connected to football but are directly impacted by the revenue football produces, are you really going to micromanage a coach and tell him who should and shouldn't be playing?
His answer to this broken system is to overhaul it in a way that makes things easier and more profitable for those in positions of power—schools, NFL teams—and acutely punishes the players themselves. I didn't think it was possible to come up with a way to do football that was even more exploitative that what exists, but here we are.
The NCAA probably loves this idea.
In case you were wondering, yes, Hayes has more than a hint of the "old man yells at cloud" about him:
You better believe those simple ideals translate to the field every single play, and to every hour of every day away from the field. A better player on the field, a better human being off it.
But it's more than that. Hayes, a senior writer at the Sporting News, has a track record of trying to mold the sport to his ideals. He's always coming up with schemes designed to keep these uppity players in line.
Here's what he wrote back in April, in reaction to the possibility of revenue athletes someday maybe getting paid a living wage for their labor:
So if we're going to do this; if we're going to call athletes employees (or whatever you want to call them) and expand benefits and increase their ability to market and make money off themselves, the consequences for violating rules must be swift and appropriate.
Gone are the days of second, third and fourth chances as it relates to— take your pick— arrests (and convictions), academic failure, failed drug tests (performance enhancing or recreational), or any behavior that harms a university's reputation.
Come up with a set of unbreakable rules. Doesn't need to be a telephone book of what may or may not constitute a potential breach of those rules, or bylaws with subsets of varying degrees of the bylaws. Just a page of clearly-defined don'ts.
When a high school player signs a letter of intent, he signs the list of rules acknowledging any violation of those rules leads to immediate dismissal. You wanted to be treated as an employee? Fine.
The days of enabling and coddling are over.
Matt Hayes seems to really, really hate college football players. Which is weird for someone who covers college football for a living, but not unprecedented.
NFL can help NCAA by limiting future player income [Sporting News]