Brain Matter

According to a recent report the NFL is considering not inviting prospects who are academically ineligible in college to the scouting combine. (Getty Images)

According to a recent report the NFL is considering not inviting prospects who are academically ineligible in college to the scouting combine. (Getty Images)

Dear National Football League,

Bravo. And Kudos. Is it too early for a Congressional Medal of Freedom? According to a report by Bruce Feldman of, you’re considering not inviting academically ineligible college players to your annual scouting combine, all because of “increased scrutiny on the maturity and commitment” of prospects entering your workplace.

Thank goodness. About time. Way overdue, actually. Oh, sure, some nattering nabobs of negativity will call this a cynical ploy, a public relations trial balloon launched directly into Nancy Grace’s ravenous, Galvatron-shaming maw the center of the 24/7 news cycle’s white hot sun, the better to push the ongoing Aaron Hernandez murder case off the sports talk radio’s top line during the post-Dwight Howard days of summer. Others will simply label it stupid, and a stupid way to prop up the football-as-wholesome-man-molding canard that allows society to pretend that subjecting boys and young men to brain trauma for entertainment purposes is actually an exercise in character-building and life lessons.

Not me. I think it’s brilliant. The kind of idea that passes its campus classes with honors — and aces the Wonderlic, too.

In fact, there’s only one problem with your proposed plan: it doesn’t go far enough. Not even close. If academic prowess is your new barometer for maturity and commitment – replacing previous measures like shuttle cone runs and looking super-heroic and/or presentable in lycra underwear — then the combine as currently constituted is all wrong, a jumble of off-putting optics. There’s too much running and jumping and stopwatch-clicking and football-related stuff, and not enough reading chemistry textbooks and deconstructing French new wave cinema. As such, a few suggestions:

Scrap the 40-yard dash: Replace announced times with announced collegiate GPAs. Pro tip: most of them will be lower than 4.0, so they’ll sound even more impressive.

Dump the Bod Pod, too: And the shirtless, no-pants measurements and stage sashays. Your scouts see body composition, but the rest of America only sees tattoos, and maybe that means gangs, or something else scary, and then how will anyone ever believe in the maturity and commitment of our future heroes/role models/fantasy football trade chips?

Add Kaplan or the Princeton Review: Not as sponsors. As partners. You know, so you can better prepare mature and committed prospective professional football players for their all-important GRE tests.

Have your coaches and scouts dress like thisRoger Goodell already has the academic look down cold. And speaking of Goodell, change his official title from “commissioner” to “dean.” It just sounds more mature and committed.

Look, the above isn’t a comprehensive list. I’m sure you can think of other helpful changes. Like inviting more mathletes. Point is, you need to cull the herd. Eliminate the bad apples. Show the public that pro football isn’t a sport for just anyone, and that the commitment and maturity demonstrated by being able to both show up for and not flunk out of Spanish II is what the NFL embodies.

As for the academic washouts, the “sizable group” of former college players a league source told Feldman would not have been invited to this year’s combine had the proposed rule been in place? Don’t worry. You won’t miss them. If academic history is any guide, there’s plenty of mature, committed talent available for drafting on a yearly basis. A few examples:

Quentin Groves, linebacker: Graduated from Auburn with a degree in criminology.*

Cody Grimm, safety: Graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in apparel, housing and resource management.**

Rae Carruth, wide receiver: Double major in English and education at Colorado, selected to Big 12 All-Academic team.***

Aaron Hernandez, tight end: Academic All-SEC.****

See what I mean? Forget football. Focus on scholarship. What could possibly go wrong?


Patrick Hruby

* Arrested after attempting to solicit sex from an undercover police officer.

** Arrested twice in three months for public intoxication.

*** Currently serving prison sentence for conspiring to murder the pregnant mother of his child.

**** You get CNN, right?

3 thoughts on “Brain Matter

  1. I mean…it is a little stupid to be sure, and it’s obviously a PR related move. But I don’t think it’s entirely without merit because I don’t really think they’re setting the standard all that high here. If it was a rule that something like, you need a 2.5 GPA to be eligible? That’s pointlessly stringent, and stupid, and would lack context. But simply asking people to be academically eligible doesn’t seem like a tremendous hurdle for someone to clear. It will, at least at the margins, encourage some kids to spend a little more time studying. I just think there’s a pretty big gap between “decent student” and “academically eligible”. It doesn’t seem like they’re asking for the moon and the stars.

    • But all that does is help the NCAA play its fiction that these are “amateur student-athletes” the NCAA is helping receive an education, not free labor being exploited by a billion-dollar industry.

  2. With that “draw your own conclusions picture” line-up at the top of this blogpost, I guess you are possibly suggesting an apt visual comparison to the essay narrative below it of a current popular thesis about the NFL. That is, those letters may actually really stand for ‘National Felons League’ in the not too distant future based on the escalating rate of some players’ aberrant behavior! Hopefully, the NCAA will also lose the pending class (or even classless;) action lawsuit of Ed O’Bannon; and, not only that, why not give them an anti-trust exemption while were at it as was discussed in another one of your recent fine articles on this site, Patrick? At the very least, such a legal decision would render your tongue-in-cheek argument above a moot point since it wouldnt be necessary to consider a college athletes GPAs if theyre all basically playing for pay going into the NFL!