Could The Pacific Pro Football League Actually Change College Football?

Try to imagine with me for a moment. You are a highly recruited college football player with offers from Alabama, Clemson, USC, and others. You are looking at a plethora of choices and then you get a phone call.

The Pacific Pro Football League wants you to join and play for them rather than spending 3+ seasons in the NCAA. They are offering $50,000 per year to only play football right out of high school. No classes, no NCAA, a first year salary of $50,000 and a direct route to the NFL whenever they eventually want you. Would you do it?

I know what you are thinking. What about the XFL, the USFL, the World League, Arena Football, etc.? They all came in with great promises of competing as a professional league and eventually flamed out in one way or another. The only league that could make a case for surviving is Arena Football, but that is a completely different story for another day.

What makes the Pacific Pro Football League different?

Well, one thing quickly comes to mind. They are targeting players from the high school level that would prefer other options than either play in the NCAA or NAIA and then eventually get a shot at being drafted. Instead, they could get paid a solid chunk of change to play football full time in what we dubbed a “Developmental Tweener League.” Basically, it is a version of minor league baseball for professional football.

Let’s take a look at some benefits of playing in this league rather than college football.

Money:

When joining the league, each player will be paid a $50,000 per year salary as a member. While that number pales in comparison to the millions of dollars paid to NFL players, that amount of money is much more substantial than an 18 year old with football skills can get without breaking NCAA rules. Sure, the argument can be made that certain players get more than that under the table, but without solid numbers, that is just a guessing game.

For example, Player A has lived in abject poverty for the majority of his life. He sees football as his way out of the projects. He is a top level recruit and has the choice to either go to a NCAA program and take their stipend of a few thousand dollars per year, take money under the table and risk losing his eligibility and possibly his chance at the pros, or start honing his craft at 50K per year and move out of the projects doing something he loves.

Here is the 2015/06 cost of attendance (for stipends) for the AAC for comparison. For others, go here.

More players than you think are going to choose the 50K.

Safety and rule changes:

One of the biggest initiatives of the PPFL is player safety. They want to allow players to show off their athletic skill in matchup schemes, rather than emphasizing the dangerous play that the NFL thrived on for many years. Rules like eliminating kickoffs, limiting blitzes, and more man to man defense.

The goal is to give the players an experience of the administration actually caring about their well being. Currently, the NCAA and NFL do a poor job of keeping players safe due to an uneven interpretation of rules by different officials.

Targeting, for example, has taken some illegal hits out of college football but has also seen players ejected for seemingly legal hits. There is little rhyme or reason to some of the officials decisions. In addition, the NCAA has not set up a real appeal process for bad calls. Instead, the conference that was officiating tells the team “my bad” and that player still misses valuable game time.

https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/NCAA_Football_Injury_WEB.pdf

The NFL has realistically changed rules to benefit the health of quarterbacks, but not many other players on the field. They do call illegal hits, but those are also at the wildly varying discretion of the officials. The PPFL wants to set up a process where players understand exactly what is and isn’t legal with a players first attitude.

Another aspect is an eight game schedule that will keep players from taking as many hits in season. Just the limitation of games is a huge step towards better player safety. In addition, the goal is to develop players. That means two players carrying the ball 15 times rather than one player averaging 30+ carries per game.

A players first league:

The previously mentioned professional leagues that fizzled all had one thing in common: they were more concerned with making money than player development. When the money wasn’t being made (at a high enough rate), those leagues folded quickly.

The PPFL is not looking to make millions of dollars. Instead, it is a league that knows its role as a possible minor league for the NFL and is treating it as such. That is why they are only looking at a four team league to start and possibly opening other four team leagues in different parts of the country. There is no need for ridiculous ambition to torpedo the chance of a viable option to the NCAA ever getting on track.

While missing out on a college education is a big deal, the league has already guaranteed at least one year of community college for every player in the league whenever he wants it. That could change to a four-year guarantee in the future if things mark in the positive for the league.

I know I may sound like a mouthpiece for the league, but it would mean everything for a league to honestly be players first.

*****

So, let’s track back to that original question. Will a five-star player actually give up a chance at playing in the NCAA for a shot at playing minor league football? While I am inclined to say that several players will take a strong look at the option, I have absolutely no idea what a 17/18 year old will decide when given the options. I mean, players have decided where to go based on school colors or show manufacturers in the past.

Should the NCAA be worried?

One thing I do know is that if a few players turn a trip to the league into an NFL contract, the flood gates could open. We could be looking 10 years in the future at 4/5 four-team leagues throughout the country with many of the best college age players in the nation on their rosters. Both the NCAA and the PPFL can succeed together, but it will never be the same.

Just think for a moment just how much of a monopoly the NCAA has on college football. In other sports like basketball, hockey, baseball and others, the player can go elsewhere and play professionally straight out of high school. Basketball would include a trip overseas, but it is still obtainable for those that are interested. There is no real professional option for a football player. Just giving players options can completely change the structure of the NCAA regarding college football.

What about me as a Forgotten 5 fan?

Realistically, the highest recruited players are the ones that the PPFL will go after. Being based in California, there is little chance it would dramatically affect many of the G5 programs even in that area.

One thing that could change things is if players decide mid NCAA career to make the switch to the PPFL. That could mean a star wide receiver deciding to get paid after proving his worth for a year in college. The PPFL’s thoughts on that possibility are a little more murky, making that a realistic fear in the long term future.

Mostly, I would not be worried as a fan of a G5 team that things would suddenly fall apart. If anything, the talent gap between the SEC and Sun Belt could shrink dramatically if the PPFL is successful.

*****

Keep an eye on this evolving league. It could change the way you look at college football.

One thought on “Could The Pacific Pro Football League Actually Change College Football?

  1. I also wonder about a league like this gaining or losing traction as fan perception changes. Do they view a game where a large number of players get developmental playing time, that is ostensibly akin to NFL preseason football? And does that change in perception cause the PPFL to suffer, or does it cause the NFL to seriously consider dumping the preseason once and for all in an attempt at differentiating their product? Lots of interesting questions with no answers yet.

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