Last year, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery made waves with many around the college football world by deciding to sit out their respective bowl games. Both had struggled with injury concerns last season and didn’t want to risk sustaining further injury and hurting their chances at being drafted early in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Despite predictions that their decision would lead teams to stay away from them for fear of their “character,” they were taken No. 4 and No. 8 overall picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, respectively.
Meanwhile, Michigan tight end Jake Butt suffered a devastating knee injury in the Orange Bowl that likely cost him in the neighborhood of $2.5 million.
This has lead many to wonder whether we will start seeing an increase in players deciding to follow in suit.
Adam Schefter recently predicted we will see exactly that, something Clemson coach Dabo Swinney hopes doesn’t happen. Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Swinney expressed his reservations about the self-preservation strategy:
“At the end of the day, any game is a risk,” Swinney said. “Why play at all your senior year? Why play at all? That’s my personal opinion. But to each his own. If I have someone who doesn’t want to play, don’t play. Just let me know so I can get the next guy ready and we’ll put the next 11 out there and compete.”
It isn’t a surprise that a coach would be bothered by a player making this kind of decision. Take into consideration where the two sides are coming from, though.
For the players, they are looking for a huge payday and don’t want to become another cautionary tale.
For the coaches, this is their job and they’ll probably be back next year (they hope). For them, the bowl game is the payoff, and without one of their best players, their chances are greatly diminished.
This is the natural direction for college sports to take.
Players are rightfully becoming increasingly cautious about putting their necks on the line and jeopardizing their future.