Sitting one out for the old Alma Mater

by Gary Shelton on December 23, 2016 · 1 comment

in College Sports in Florida, Florida State University, general, University of Florida

Is Dalvin Cook wrong for playing in bowl game?/ANDREW J. KRAMER

Is Dalvin Cook wrong for playing in bowl game?/ANDREW J. KRAMER

Thursday, 4 a.m.

So much for boolah-boolah.

So much for the old college try..

Leonard Fournette is skipping the Citrus Bowl, evidently, because of Orlando traffic and the crowds at the Hillbilly Jamboree. And because he's been hurt, and he wants to play in the NFL. He wants to practice for the NFL in ways, it seems, that he wouldn't get at a  team practice.  So he'll bypass the opportunity of playing Louisville because, really, what does it matter?

Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey of Stanford is sitting out the Sun Bowl, because really, he's seen the Sun. It comes out every day. What's the big deal?

Oh, there is this:

It stinks. Just that.

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Playing for LSU was just dandy, of course, before Fournette made himself into a No. 1 draft choice. Playing for Stanford was cool before McCaffrey was a semi-celebrity on his way to a large payday. It was cool. It was fun. But now, their NFL dreams are too big for their colleges. So they looked out for No. 1. They made a completely self-involved decision. They took a walk.

So much  for their teammates. So much for being there for their fans. So much for being there for their schools.

I know, I know. Coaches do this sort of thing often, jumping for a payday and leaving the players to fend for themselves in whatever meager bowl game they're in. But coaches aren't teammates. They don't do wind sprints by you and wait on their chance to play with you and suffer injuries with you. I get it: college football is completely unfair to the player while making rich men out of coaches. But that's the system. That's true inthe first game of the year, and it's true before the conference title game.

Look, it isn't anything new that if you look at the finances of it all, college players get a lousy deal. But that's true during the season, too.

So have we reached the point where bowl games are optional? Where they're mandatory if you are an average player, but if you're good enough, you get to blow it off? What if you don't like the headphones in the gift bag? What if you don't like the city you're playing in? What if you don't like the opponent? Are we going to have one last recruiting period?

Here's a secret. At the next level, teams play football games, too. Sometimes, they play games that don't mean a whole lot. Players still don't get to skip just because they want to.

It is true that neither LSU nor Stanford are playing great opponents in legendary games. But how big would the bowls have to be before these two took part. The Rose Bowl? The Sugar? The playoffs? The national title game? Is there a game big enough for the players to take part in?

And how about the other players? Is Dalvin Cook a chump for playing in the Orange Bowl? Brad Kaaya has NFL ambitions, too. How about Leonard Cook of Alabama? He could get hurt, too.

Jabrill Peppers of Michigan? Deshaun Watson of Clemson? College football is full of players who will play for their colleges. Are they all idiots?

In defending Fournette and McCaffrey, it has become popular to refer to the bowl games as “exhibitions.” That's silly. Bowl games have always been important in college football. Most of these bowl games are not, and have never been, about the national title.

And, yes, some players get hurt. Jaylon Smith. Marcus Lattimore. Melvin Bratton.

Consider this: This season, Oklahoma defensive tackle Charles Walker decided to leave the Sooners … with two games to go. Two games.

So where does it end. With a team's second loss? Its third?  When it falls out of the top 25? When are the games no longer big enough to perform in?

Again, I realize that some bowl games are silly. If they're that silly, however, then don't play them. Deal? There isn't anyone from Stanford who's life will be more meaningful because of the Sun Bowl. There isn't anyone from LSU who will look back and say “thank goodness we had the Citrus.”

But a player can wreck his knee in the Florida game, too. Or in the Southern Cal game. It's football, the natural enemy of the knee.

Look, the first thing coaches tell you is that you don't quit. You don't let down your teammates by begging off. You don't sit one out for the Gipper. Even when the game is decided, even when a bad finish is assured, you push.

You play.

That's all.


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