Why do fans expect an "amateur" football player to put his career and livelihood on the line for what amounts to an exhibition game? On Saturday, West Virginia University announced that starting quarterback Will Grier will not be participating in the Camping World Bowl game against Syracuse. His decision not to participate in bowl games to focus on preparation for the NFL Draft did not sit well with some college football fans. He joined the list of more than a dozen players who will skip their teams' bowl games.
Grier made the following statement informing fans of his decision.
Fans have no right to be upset with unpaid "amateur" athletes for choosing to further their professional careers. After all is that not what a major part of the college experience is all about, learning to make tactical business decisions to be better professionally. Grier did just that. He made a tactical business decision to protect his potential professional career by not subjecting himself to injury in the bowl game.
Furthermore, Grier is slated to be a first or second-round draft pick. Would it really make sense for Grier to jeopardize his NFL draft potential by playing in a bowl game? The answer is simple. No, it would not make sense.
The Minimal Reward is Not Worth the Risk
The risk of injury in bowl games simply is not worth it for a college football player with a high NFL Draft potential. Bowl participants receive what amounts to very little for their participation. Participants receive a bowl gift and bragging rights for a year. Bowl gifts are nice and fun. However, they are minuscule when compared to the salaries and bonuses that coaches receive for bowl participation. This is especially true for a player like Will Grier who has already accomplished the pinnacle of what college sports and "amateurism" is supposed to be about - degree completion.
A degree is extremely valuable and can lead to a better life. Receipt of scholarship money to acquire a degree is very valuable as well. However, a scholarship often does not equate to a college athlete's full market value. Why should a player with the potential to finally receive their full fair market value for their athletic prowess risk a potential career ending injury in a game that is not going to compensate him up to his full value? Again, the answer is simple. No athlete should take that risk. No fan should expect them to.
College Football Players Should not be Vilified for Opting Out of Bowl Games
Suiting up for any game carries a risk of injury. However, dissenting fans argue that it is only one more game, so the players should play. While it may only be one more game, the risk of injury is ever-present. In fact, the risk of injury is so prevalent that Grier is not the only player sitting out of a bowl game this year. In the past, players like Jaylon Smith and Jake Butt have suffered a serious injury which impacted their draft position. Specifically, Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary, N'Keal Harry, Greedy Williams, and Grier's teammate Yodny Cajuste are among those that have opted out of their respective bowl games this year to prepare for the NFL.
Some fans are equally upset by these decisions. They argue that such players are being selfish and are quitting on their teams. However, that is not true. The players who opt out are not doing it to quit on their team. They are doing it to protect their future career prospects so that they may finally receive market value for their talents. Despite what fans may think, college football players are not obligated to risk a career-ending injury for their viewing pleasure. Accordingly, players who opt out should not be vilified for their decision.
Players are not the Only Ones who Opt Out; Coaches do Too
Players are not the only ones who opt out of bowl games. Coaches opt out as well. Every year, several coaches leave their teams to take jobs at other schools in the midst of bowl game preparation. Coaches are allowed to make business decisions for the betterment of their careers, just as players should be.
Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, college football is a business. Therefore, all parties involved should be allowed to make decisions that are in the best interest of their careers. This freedom of movement may upset some fans. However, players and coaches should be able to make whatever decision is best for their career.