Steven M. Sipple: Harbaugh's NFL idea has welcome effect of undercutting NIL legislation

Steven M. Sipple: Harbaugh's NFL idea has welcome effect of undercutting NIL legislation

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Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh is a thinker. He typically makes a lot of sense.

So when he issued a proposal last week in an "open letter to the football community," my ears perked up. 

In his letter, Harbaugh urges the NFL and NCAA to change their rules to allow college football players to enter the NFL Draft at any point during their college careers and to be allowed to return to school if they aren't drafted. Current rules state that a player must be at least three years removed from high school before entering the draft. 

Harbaugh's idea is intriguing on several fronts. For one, it gives yours truly an avenue to express serious reservations about allowing players to profit from endorsement deals while playing in college, as would be the case if the NCAA adopts rules changes regarding name, image and likeness.

Along those lines, I was pleased — and somewhat surprised — to learn that about half of college coaches support the idea of allowing players to head to the NFL whenever they want. Why might that be the case? Well, Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, told ESPN that coaches who support the change regard it as an alternative to college players getting endorsement deals.

"Some college football coaches say, 'Hey, let's keep this (current NCAA) model as it is, and if players want a way to make more than that, they can go pro," Berry told ESPN.

Exactly. For some reason, the notion of college athletes landing endorsement deals while still in college picked up serious political steam across the country. Oh, sure, such a plan sounds just lovely for student-athletes. But from a practical standpoint, it could be a nightmare. I'm guessing it will become a nightmare.

For instance, what would stop a group of prominent business leaders in, say, Denver from putting together a handsome endorsement package designed to lure Nebraska redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey to transfer to Colorado? Talk about excitement for the Buffaloes and their new coaching staff. After all, McCaffrey's from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, near Denver. Think how much excitement new CU head coach Karl Dorrell could generate in the fan base if he could spearhead such a coup.

You don't think scenarios like that could happen? Really?

It should be noted Harbaugh is in favor of the NCAA recommendation on name, image and likeness legislation. So, he's not right about everything. In regard to the NIL discussion, I will grant you it's a better idea than the impractical nonsense that's been discussed for years: Pay the payers as if they're university employees. The name, image and likeness scenario thankfully weakens that sorely misguided notion, as would Harbaugh's suggestion that players be allowed to declare for the NFL Draft after any season. 

If players want to make serious money, they should do it in a professional league. That's the gist of my stance. 

Meanwhile, you wonder if Harbaugh's open letter attracted Nebraska coach Scott Frost's attention, albeit for an altogether different reason. Think about it: If college players had the ability to enter the NFL Draft anytime they wanted to, Ohio State would be the Big Ten team most heavily affected. Everyone in the Big Ten is chasing Ohio State, and Nebraska obviously trails by a long way — a longer way than even Michigan, and Harbaugh still hasn't beaten the Buckeyes.

Since 2013, a total of 29 Ohio State players have entered the draft before exhausting their college eligibility. Top players from around the nation go to OSU with a three-and-done mentality. If Harbaugh's plan were adopted, the progression would be expedited. Yeah, that could be helpful to the entire league in that it might level the playing field. 

I don't necessarily think that's what Harbaugh has in mind with his proposal. I think he's genuinely interested in giving student-athletes and their families more discretion in determining the timeline for a transition to pro football.

Bottom line, many of his ideas make sense. This is one of them.

A look at Steven M. Sipple's latest columns

A look at Steven M. Sipple's latest columns

Miss the latest columns from "Sip"? Check them out here. 

When Bob Devaney died on May 9, 1997, Nebraska athletics lost a giant — the man who transformed Husker football into a defining element of our state. 

The former Millard West star's comments about selecting Stanford are provocative in the context of Keagan Johnson and Avante Dickerson. 

Eric Stokes says more and more elite high school players are looking for schools that can push them quickly into the NFL. Right now, that isn't NU.

Back in 2010, Bo Pelini couldn't have known exactly how tough it would get for Nebraska in the Big Ten. But maybe he had an inkling.

Jim Harbaugh is urging the NFL and NCAA to change their rules to allow college players to enter the NFL Draft at any point during their career.

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Jim Harbaugh is urging the NFL and NCAA to change their rules to allow college players to enter the NFL Draft at any point during their career.

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