Photo: Harry How/Getty

UCLA QB Josh Rosen is expected to be a high pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 20-year-old junior can be seen as a future NFL star and an ambitious guy whose eagerness to have a life outside of football somehow makes certain corners of the league’s intelligentsia skeptical. In today’s interview with Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes, Rosen clearly showed that regardless of how his pro career turns out, he’s thinking now about what he has to do to keep his post-football future bright.

Rosen talked about his preparation for his crucial junior season, the perception that he’s not committed to football, and, most notably, the often combative relationship between football and academics in college football. UCLA is an elite school, and Rosen’s major (economics) is one of the more demanding areas of study for big-time athletes. The QB said that the two were basically incompatible:

Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.

Hayes asked Rosen if his point was that some current college football players shouldn’t be in school, and Rosen clarified that it boils down to a wayward focus from colleges and a misallocation of resources. He also rightly pointed out that the argument that college players shouldn’t be paid because they go to the NFL anyway ignores the fact that very few college players go pro:

It’s not that they shouldn’t be in school. Human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules. No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule, and go to school. It’s not that some players shouldn’t be in school; it’s just that universities should help them more—instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible.

Any time any player puts into school will take away from the time they could put into football. They don’t realize that they’re getting screwed until it’s too late. You have a bunch of people at the universities who are supposed to help you out, and they’re more interested in helping you stay eligible. At some point, universities have to do more to prepare players for university life and help them succeed beyond football. There’s so much money being made in this sport. It’s a crime to not do everything you can to help the people who are making it for those who are spending it.

Of course, many players can manage the twin burdens of academics and athletics, and some even graduate early. Rosen insisted that the gradient in difficulty between, say, a sociology degree at somewhere like Clemson and an economics degree from UCLA is severe and meaningful enough to judge on a curve:

B/R: How is it, then, that some guys graduate in three years? Deshaun Watson graduated in three years from Clemson. So did his roommate, Artavis Scott.

Rosen: I’m not knocking what those guys accomplished. They should be applauded for that. But certain schools are easier than others.

B/R: It can’t be that simple.

Rosen: If I wanted to graduate in three years, I’d just get a sociology degree. I want to get my MBA. I want to create my own business. When I’m finished with football, I want a seamless transition to life and work and what I’ve dreamed about doing all my life. I want to own the world. Every young person should be able to have that dream and the ability to access it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Taking light jabs at Alabama, Clemson, and sociology majors won’t earn Rosen any friends, but his underlying points aren’t exactly wrong. There’s still an uncomfortable dissonance to college football’s relationship with academics, and schools that seek to preserve eligibility at all costs and treat the actual learning process as ancillary to an athlete’s college experience don’t help anyone but themselves.

[Bleacher Report]