Today, the NFL announced that Terrelle Pryor will be eligible for the 2011 Supplemental Draft, but that his NCAA imposed five game suspension will be carried over into the NFL season. If he is taken, he can practice until week 1 and then cannot play or practice until after week 5. And people are losing their minds. Since I can't get all of my thoughts into 140 characters or less, I'll do it here.
The Supplemental Draft was set up for two main reasons: to help players who missed the filing deadline for the regular draft or because issues developed which affected their eligibility to play college football. And that second reason is what we have here. The NCAA suspended Pryor for the first five games of the 2011 season due to tattoo-gate last year. Now here is where it gets sticky. For all intents and purposes, Pryor intended to return to OSU and sit out that suspension. I can deduce this by the fact that he did not declare for the regular draft.
So why the supplemental draft? What changed? Reports are out that the NCAA was still digging into Pryor's activities at OSU. Players are required to submit bank records to the NCAA if asked. According to reports, Pryor was asked and submitted those records and then promptly began talking about the supplemental draft. Hmmm. This makes me think he was concerned about further sanctions. Either way, the NCAA hasn't actually charged him with anything or given him any sanctions. This means his playing situation and eligibility have not changed. This means he is not eligible for the supplemental draft. Period.
And yet Pryor petitioned the NFL for entry and the NFL postponed the supplemental draft to review his case and meet with him. And today we have the decision: Pryor will be allowed to enter the supplemental draft but he will have to serve his 5 game NCAA imposed suspension. Either Roger Goodell has taken the "God" in his name to heart or the NFL is taking the recent NCAA scandals into account and are laying the groundwork for a future partnership with the NCAA. Maybe I'm giving the NFL too much credit, but I think that is where they are heading.
We can all agree that the NCAA is a big moneymaker. Most of us would also agree that there is something unbalanced in the NCAA making all this money while the players are living under strict financial rules. This is not the time and place for my opinions on paying players or the NCAA rules, but it is the situation the NCAA is living in. The NFL admittedly uses the NCAA as a minor league system; letting players grow and learn while scouts use their games to create lists of potential NFL stars. At some point, it is only natural for them to form some kind of partnership, even if only in spirit.
When a player is found guilty of committing NCAA violations, he and the university are punished. However, if the player is good enough, he can escape this punishment by declaring for the NFL draft. No harm no foul to him. But the university still faces the loss of scholarships or bowl games. Wait - what? Reggie Busch is a good example of a player who was already out of school and playing in the NFL when penalties were assessed. USC is still paying the price for Busch's activities and he is living the big life. Yes, USC shares the blame for what went on, for not monitoring or reporting, but should their penalties outlast those of the players? Maybe. As an institution they should have the higher responsibility. But where is the deterrent for players to follow the rules?
For those concerned about "setting precedents" and "slippery slopes" keep this in mind: negotiated entry into the supplemental draft as a new rule ONLY affects a future players eligibility to enter the supplemental draft. Goodell didn't grab a current player and punish him for past sins. He didn't grab a player getting ready for the regular draft and tell him HE would have to suffer any NCAA sanctions that had already been imposed on him. Simple answer: to avoid NFL game suspension, file for the draft before the deadline. Yeah, it's just that easy.
Perhaps if the threat of NCAA sanctions following a player into the NFL becomes a reality, they will start turning down yacht rides and hookers, stop trading memorabilia for tattoos, stop taking free cars... (it could happen)
Perhaps the NFL wants to help keep the NCAA clean of the influence of unscrupulous characters who will lure unsuspecting players into the sordid life of girls, gambling, and ponzi schemes.... (not bloody likely)
Or, Perhaps the NFL sees the hypocrisy of the NCAA rules and by taking this action, will get the NFLPA into the fight to help force the NCAA to take another look at the system and come up with something that makes the college football business more balanced for both sides.... (I kinda like the conspiracy-theory in this one)
At the end of the day, Pryor really is not eligible for the supplemental draft. No amount of whining by him or his attorney can change that. Roger Goodell's offer to let him in but keep his 5 game suspension is a compromise Pryor must have agreed to or else the NFL statement would have simply said he remains ineligible. Maybe Pryor fans, instead of complaining, should be grateful that they only have to wait until week 6 for the chance to see him play again instead of an entire year.
Then again, what do I know. I could just be a biased Buckeye Honk. (and proud of it)