A couple of weeks ago Christian McCaffrey voluntarily sat out of the Hyundai Sun Bowl against North Carolina to protect his future NFL career. The logic behind the decision makes sense – running backs have “a lot of tread on the tires” according to every analyst I’ve ever listened to, and they’re careers are statistically far shorter than any other position on the field.
What Mr. McCaffrey didn’t account for, though, is how the decision may hurt his feelings. People took to the interwebs throwing out claim after preposterous claim thinking with nothing other than raw emotion. Analysts and players alike scolded McCaffrey for not, “thinking of his teammates” or “wanting to play with his brothers.”
Give me a break.
Take a look at what Christian McCaffrey has done at Stanford. He holds the single season and single game rushing yard records for the school, all purpose yards in a single game and all purpose yards in a single season for the NCAA. He has nothing else to accomplish for a team that largely disappointed this year. What else does he have to prove?
Leonard Fournette and a litany of other players in meaningless bowl games followed McCaffrey’s example and sat out as well. So, people across the country now worry that this will become the precedent amongst college athletes. But, during the Rose Bowl last Monday, Adoree Jackson helped proved McCaffrey’s point.
During the third quarter, Jackson was running back a punt return when he turned his ankle. He was helped off of the field and sat out the remainder of the game. As of yesterday, Jackson revealed in an interview that the ankle is okay, but will need some rest and time to recover. This recovery time could be otherwise spent training for the NFL combine, should the Thorpe Award winning DB decide to forego his senior year (that’s called opportunity cost, thank you ECON101).
This injury will loom over Jackson now since ankle injuries are tricky to heal. NFL teams will take notice of this and his draft stock will suffer. The same thing happened last year to Notre Dame’s All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith. At the end of a play in the Fiesta Bowl, an Ohio State lineman pushed Smith in the back, causing him to lose his balance and tear his ACL. He would be starting in the NFL right now had it not been for a fluke play in a game that meant nothing.
This is the problem that the College Football Playoff has created.
Every year once prominent bowl games now have diminished value due to the playoff. This year, teams that didn’t make the playoffs played the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. These games have essentially turned into super intense friendly matches between traditional college football powerhouses. Sure, there’s tradition involved and pride on the line, but what were Jackson and USC actually playing for on January 2nd, sixth place? That’s like the March Madness Tournament having consolation matchups for every school that loses.
I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future more players start sitting out these once major bowl games. There is literally zero incentive to play. You either play and get injured or win some glorified participation trophy and receive none of the money that the school makes off of your efforts.
Now, before my mentions flood with tweets about the tradition of these games and the benefits that these college players receive, allow me to propose this scenario in a different light. You’re a senior in college going into your last semester. You’ve already landed a job following graduation and just need to pass your classes this semester. The professor of your capstone class for your major knows all of this and says to you, “Your final is optional. You can take it if you want, but it won’t raise your grade all that much. The choice to take the test is yours.”
Answer honestly, are you going in to take that test?