Until now, there has been no route for high school graduates who want to hone their skills for the NFL outside of playing college football until three years has passed from graduation when the league will allow them to be drafted. A new professional football league, the Pacific Pro League, plans to fill that gap in 2018. Respected NFL agent/attorney Don Yee will launch four teams in Southern California, and the league will employ players not yet eligible for the NFL in the range of $50,000 a year.
Although history is replete with abortive attempts to launch new leagues, the Pacific Pro League would definitely fill a void. First, there are athletes who have academic shortfalls and find it difficult to get college football programs to accept them. Second, there are athletes who get dismissed from college football programs who can be left in limbo. Third, there is a large group of high school graduates who do not have the slightest interest or ambition to get a college diploma. All of these groups could be benefiting from participating in a league which trains them for their eventual craft.
College football exists as a profit-making activity for universities that also serves as a developmental league for the NFL. The colleges benefit and the NFL, which pays nothing to the colleges, also benefits. College players receive scholarships, but those do not account for additional expenese that may leave them below the standard of living of their non-athletic peers. And if the college player is injured or under productive, many of the scholarships are not guaranteed and the player will simply be out of luck.
We all would like to see every young athlete appreciate the transient nature of an athletic career and a profound understanding of the value of a college education for second career. But many young athletes simply have no interest. Left on a college campus for four years, they will not graduate anyway. They feel trapped. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it dictate that a study of trigonometry or art appreciation is a prerequisite for cutting off tackle for three yards.
By having all four franchises in Southern California, this new league is able to control costs. The immensity of the American public's love of all forms of football and the bandwidth to televise it make a television contract likely. There is an intense current interest in high school football and recruiting that will give some of these players profile and recognition. There is no shortage of investors anxious to have some footing in a sports franchise of any kind.
This league could compete with colleges for top talent and force colleges to make necessary adjustments which would benefit their athletes. It is not a matter of paying massive sums to college players, but adjusting scholarship limits upward so that players have the same access to automobiles, trips home, and other amenities that other students do.
The emergence of the Pacific Pro League could be an exciting new addition to the football landscape, benefiting players and ultimately the National Football League.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.