Jim Harbaugh proposes major changes to NFL Draft eligibility rules
Current NFL rules require players to be at least three years removed from high school before they are eligible to play in the league, and Jim Harbaugh is calling for that to change.
In an open letter he wrote to the “College Football Community” on Thursday, Harbaugh outlined a detailed proposal that would give student-athletes more flexibility to determine when is the best time for them to pursue a professional career. The changes would give college players the right to decide when they want to test the NFL Draft waters. If the player were to go undrafted, Harbaugh believes he should have the option of being able to return to school.
“There are ‘early bloomers’ capable of competing in the NFL and earning a livelihood at an earlier age,” Harbaugh wrote in the letter. “The goal would be to create a scenario that makes adjustments for all current and future student‐athletes that puts the timeline for transition to professional football at their discretion and that of their family. I propose an option that allows them to make the decision that is best for them.”
You can read the full letter below:
Jim Harbaugh wants to overhaul the rules of college eligibility of when is the right time to turn pro and enter the draft, as this letter shows. Baseball and hockey already have changed, and basketball is about to change, and Harbaugh wants to empower the student-athlete. pic.twitter.com/lQLb10H8SR
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 7, 2020
Under Harbaugh’s plan, a player who is selected in the NFL Draft or signs with a team as a free agent would become ineligible to return to school. The Michigan coach is also calling for college athletes to be permitted to consult with agents before giving up their NCAA eligibility as long as they don’t receive any compensation.
Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, told ESPN’s Dan Murphy that roughly half of college coaches support the idea of allowing players to turn pro whenever they want. Many support the idea as an alternative to the recent plan that would permit college athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness while in school. A Michigan spokesman told Murphy that Harbaugh’s open letter was not intended to be a response to that development.
Harbaugh also proposes that schools continue to help players pursue a college degree even if they turn pro. He would like to see schools cover the costs of a player’s education depending upon how long they were enrolled in college. If a player attended college for a year, Harbaugh’s plan states that the school would cover the cost of one additional year of education if the player wanted to continue pursuing a college degree after his professional playing career ended.
There were other changes proposed by Harbaugh, including giving college players five years of eligibility even without a redshirt year.
Much like his proposal to revamp the College Football Playoff system, Harbaugh’s arguments seem well-thought-out. However, with the NCAA moving toward allowing players to make money while in school, it seems highly unlikely that they would also be in favor of changing NFL eligibility requirements at this time.