A proposed solution to the Jadeveon Clowney situation
The Kansas City Star
You might’ve seen this column by Charlotte sports writer Tom Sorensen suggesting the outrageously talented Jadeveon Clowney should skip his upcoming junior season at South Carolina and enter next year’s NFL draft, when he’ll be eligible.
It’s a fascinating possibility, even if Clowney has given no indication he’ll do anything but terrorize every offense on South Carolina’s schedule this fall. It even led to this column by Mike Silver suggesting that instead of waiting for the NFL’s arbitrary three-years-after-high-school-graduation waiting period he lawyer up and see about entering this year’s draft.
First of all, that might make the Chiefs’ decision about whether to go quarterback easier. Clowney is a certified freak, every look of a dominant NFL defender.
Second, this whole issue gives us an excuse to watch this video, very possibly the greatest football hit of my adult life:
But the main point here is something I haven’t seen anyone mention — I’ve probably just missed it — which is that the NCAA should probably revisit how insurance policies are done.
Right now, college athletes can take out policies against career-ending injuries. Clowney is reportedly seeking a $5 million policy. But these things only protect against career-ending injuries, not career-diminishing injuries. Clowney’s teammate Marcus Lattimore, for instance, lost an enormous amount of money when he suffered a gruesome knee injury last season.
But Lattimore can’t cash in on insurance because he’ll rehab and still play pro football. The fact that he’ll be drafted much lower now, with a smaller initial contract and the possibility that his career earnings will likely be diminished is not covered by the insurance policy. But it should be.
There has to be a way to fix this, even as we all understand the complications involved — draft projections are only projections, prospects frequently rise and fall, etc. — nobody wants to see a college kid lose millions of dollars playing for a scholarship check^.
^ The temptation here is to use Kentucky basketball star Nerlens Noel as the example, but I’m not sure that’s right. As Michael Rosenberg points out here, ACL tears are not what they used to be and Noel will almost certainly still be a top 3 or 5 draft pick. Under my proposed scenario, insurance might cover the difference between, say, No. 2 money (since there’s no guarantee he would’ve gone first) and wherever he ends up being selected. That difference doesn’t figure to be anywhere near what Lattimore lost or, for another example, Willis McGahee.
Now, I don’t know the legalities involved in all of this, because the age restriction is a rule from the NFL, not the NCAA. Maybe the two institutions can come together with their considerable resources. It’s in the best interests of both sides, and in a rare opportunity, a clear benefit to the athletes as well.
If there can be a solution here, everyone wins. The NCAA provides its brightest stars peace of mind and incentive to stick around. The NFL strengthens the free farm system that provides well-trained and marketable future stars. And most importantly, the athletes can feel protected and not in the ridiculous situation where it truly might be in their best financial interests to either make themselves a healthy scratch for an entire season or sue the NFL.