The Sports Illustrated report detailing unsavory accusations of widespread "impermissible" NCAA benefits by many of the Oklahoma State Cowboys football players during the 2000s, the YAHOO! Sports allegation that former Alabama star offensive lineman D.J. Fluker was among five SEC players who received impermissible benefits, and the Johnny Manziel autograph controversy that died down after Manziel's half game suspension a couple weeks ago received as much attention as some of the interesting early season college football games themselves. Anytime there are allegations of college football players receiving benefits deemed improper by the NCAA the question of whether college athletes and especially football players should be paid comes up. The question of paying college athletes was even a Time Magazine cover story earlier this month over the turmoil in Syria. While the question of paying college athletes is far from a new one, it is interesting that there hasn't been a noteworthy college football player to rebel against the system and make the unprecedented decision that former high school basketball star Brandon Jennings made in 2008.
In 2008, Naismith Boy's Basketball High School Player of the Year guard Brandon Jennings made the decision to sign with an Italian pro league team overseas and pass up college to prepare for the 2009 NBA draft. His choice to make this rare decision was a multifaceted one. There were rumors that Jennings' decision to skip college was due to academic issues. There is other thoughts that Jennings' playing professionally overseas was due to disagreeing with the NBA's Draft policy, adopted before the 2006 draft, that prevented graduating high school seniors from declaring for the NBA Draft. Regardless of his motives, Jennings' decision proved to be a bold one as he struggled playing against professionals in a new country during his one year overseas but his talent showed enough to be selected as the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. To this point, Jennings has had a good but inconsistent NBA career but recently signed a contract with the Detroit Pistons for a reported $24 million over three years.
Before even getting into his dream career as a NBA player, Brandon Jennings signed a three-year, $1.65 million deal with an Italian pro league team. He also signed a reported $2 million endorsement deal with Under Armour. Given those financial perks, is it possible that a very highly touted high school football player could take a cue from Brandon Jennings by skipping college in pursuit of a professional football career in the Canadian Football League? Former Kansas State running back Bryce Brown strongly considered that very move in 2009. Brown was a top 10 high school football recruit in 2009 and according to his manager, considered potentially playing in the Canadian Football League because there’s no minimum age limit for the CFL. In the NFL, a player has to be three years removed from his high school graduation class. Brown ultimately spent three strange and nomadic college years at Tennessee and Kansas State before entering the NFL. He is currently a backup running back on the Philadelphia Eagles.
The football players who were allegedly receiving money and gifts that are NCAA violations could potentially earn more money out of high school by using their physical gifts and competing for professional money with CFL veterans. The benefits for those athletes to play in a different professional football league without the age restriction of the NFL include not having to go to class (for those college football players who aren't fond of doing so), possible endorsement deal money beyond their salaries (like Under Armour with Brandon Jennings), getting professional playing experience (albeit in a different league than the NFL) and not having to hide their improprieties so the NCAA doesn't find out years or even decades later. When will the gridiron see its version of basketball's Brandon Jennings?