The suggestion that Jadeveon Clowney should skip his junior season in order to train and avoid the risk of an in-game injury does seem silly, and it was roundly dismissed by both Clowney and his coach.
But watching Nerlens Noel go down last night, I couldn’t help but think of the Clowney story. Noel and Clowney are two student-athletes playing amateur ball at a professional level for no other reason than the barriers to entry erected by their respective professional leagues. Certainly they receive the benefits of development and exposure playing for high-profile college programs, but there’s no question that they’d be snapped up tomorrow by professional teams if eligible.
We’ve already seen Brandon Jennings’ long way around the one-and-done rule in basketball, but not many others have followed his lead. And why should they? For the elite basketball player, a one-and-done season isn’t a bad deal – with a good season and a tournament run, your profile is much higher than it was coming out of high school. Yes, players like Maurice Clarett have tried to work around the restrictions, but it’s not something that you’re used to hearing from someone in good standing, as it were.
I think the Clowney decision is the correct one – there’s something about commitment to a team and the experience that can’t be replaced, as Spurrier points out. Even if Clowney took the year off from competitive football to take an advance on future earnings and just focus on training, injuries are still possible. I just wouldn’t be surprised for someone in the near future to take a more serious look at stepping away from college football after a high draft status is wrapped up (and, granted, it could just as well be someone who’s received some very bad advice to do so). The emerging evidence of head trauma places a cost on every time a player steps on a field, and it’s not outrageous for a college player who’s gotten as much as he can out of the college game to consider if he wants to continue paying that cost.