When a player is found to have accepted improper benefits in the NFL's silly little feeder system (often referred to as "college football"), there are currently no ramifications for his professional career. The pro game and the game that refuses to admit it's a semi-pro game are kept separate. As they should be.
For example, see the case of New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush(notes). After he graduated from USC and took a pay cut to sign with the Saints, NCAA rules violations were found that forced Bush to eventually give back his Heisman Trophy. No one in the NFL cared much.
That could all change. There are certain people pushing for a collaborative effort between the NCAA and NFL that could result in fines, or even six- or eight-game suspensions for NFL rookies if they're found to have taken money from agents. From ESPN's Joe Schad:
The NCAA noted the possibility of "potential post-NCAA financial penalties" in a news release Monday announcing the collaborative discussions between professional and college football leaders, player agents, state law enforcement officials and NCAA executives.
The possibility of suspensions during a player's NFL rookie year -- as long as six to eight games -- is also being discussed, according to two sources involved in the collaborative discussions including representatives of the NFL, the NFLPA, the NCAA and the American Football Coaches Association.
This means that if a college player's eligibility has ended under NCAA penalty, a player such as former Oklahoma State and current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant(notes) or former North Carolina defensive lineman Marvin Austin could be subject to penalties that extend well beyond the loss of college eligibility.
Hate. Hate. Hate is the word I'm using to describe how I'd feel if some agreement were to be reached here that kept NFL rookies off the field because of college transgressions. They're separate leagues with separate goals and separate mission statements, and I see no good reason why rules violations in one league should carry over to the other.
If you're the NFL, why would you even think about this? How does it benefit you in any way? If an NFL team doesn't like what a guy did in college, it can exercise its right not to draft him. Kind of like how any employer who doesn't like that your college career consisted of pulling tubes and watching cartoons all day can feel free not to hire you, either.
If college football were different, maybe I'd have less of a problem with this. If we were really talking about scholar athletes and a game that was unsullied by agents, shoe companies, boosters, etc., then maybe I'd be a little more sensitive here.
But that's not the world we live in. For the most part, with guys who will get to the professional level, we're talking about football factories. We're talking about young players generating huge amounts of revenue for schools, and seeing very little of that money in return. We're talking about guys who are already being paid by agents, boosters or any other number of people. We're talking about violations of rules that probably shouldn't even be rules in the first place. These are rules that no one in the NFL cares about.
And we're going to take away half of a guy's rookie season because of it? In the league today, rookies are counted on to contribute. Think about how much it would hurt a guy's career to miss that much time in the season where he's going to learn the most. This would, without question, hurt the NFL's on-field product.
And as far as I can tell, it'd get nothing out of it, except for helping college football keep up the myth that it's some kind of honest enterprise, looking out for the best interests of the innocent youngsters out there.