Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has a different take on how to improve options for college football players.
Harbaugh was asked how a new California law that would allow players to receive endorsement deals despite the NCAA, which doesn’t now allow players to profit from their sports, would affect the competitive balance across college football. The California law would be initiated in 2023.
“There’s a lot of things, careful what you wish for,” Harbaugh said Monday. “A lot of loopholes we’ve seen, they drive trucks through them. I can’t visualize how that would be a competitive advantage or how that would work.”
He wants to maintain the amateur status of college athletes and has given considerable thought to different ways to handle this going forward.
“I think there are 300,000 college football players and there’s pro football, about 2,000 NFL players per year,” Harbaugh said. “The fair thing to do would be not to restrict players to have to stay in college for three years. They could turn pro at any point. They could be drafted after their freshman year, they could be drafted after their sophomore year, they could be drafted after their junior year, their senior year.
“I would also make a rule if they weren’t drafted, they could return to college. I think they could also be very productive if someone were to leave after their freshman or sophomore or junior year they hadn’t finished their degree, they would have their ability within a certain time span to come back and to finish their degree. That would be what I would suggest, propose. You have examples of other sports. You have hockey, you have baseball, you have basketball.”
Harbaugh said he would be happy to propose this idea.
“Something I think would be beneficial and fair to everybody,” he said. “There’s a restricted nature to something you have to be a college football player for three years before you’re eligible to be drafted. Give an opportunity for someone to be a professional football player at 20 or 21. It’s not a long time there’s a window to be a professional football player. If somebody’s good enough to do that and can return and finish their college degree.
"Probably would be appreciated and not taken for granted and looked at for the value that it is. It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a college education these days, plus room, board, books and tuition, and there are some that are good enough to be professional football players and some that aren’t, but that, to me, would be a good resolution to the conversation we’re having.”