Call it lunacy, because talk of adding four teams to the college playoffs makes no sense. Another round of games puts football players at an even greater risk of injury than they already face.
Each game these young men play might be their last. No one’s circumstances prove it more than Todd Gurley’s.
Gurley, star running back for Georgia, lost millions of dollars last Saturday. How many millions he lost is impossible to discern; he might have already lowered his draft stock because of misconduct that led to a five-game suspension earlier this season.
Yet no one can doubt that what happened to him last weekend will affect his bank account. Fresh from his suspension, Gurley fell to the turf at Sanford Stadium and writhed in agony as he held his left knee. He found out later he had torn his ACL.
As one writer put it: “ … earnings trickled away from Gurley like the tears that fell down his cheeks.”
It’s hard not to feel empathy for Gurley, whom NFL scouts saw as a difference-maker. He was strong; he was fast; and he was shifty, all the ingredients for a No. 1 draft pick.
Gurley’s injury is a reminder to everybody who plays a down of college football of how risky the sport is. We won’t bother to discuss here the risk of brain injuries, a problem chronicled hundreds of times in the past two or three years.
But what we won’t ignore is the misguided belief that one more game for star players is good for college football. We might solve the controversy about which team is the true national champion, but are these stars doing themselves much good by putting their future earnings in jeopardy?
The shelf-life for athletes – pro or college – is short, and each game they play shortens that shelf-life. Players have only so many downs before a significant injury, and Gurley hit his limit Saturday.
Why did he return? What made him decide to play for nothing when he had millions waiting for him?
College athletics put a lot of pressure on men like Gurley, a one-time Heisman frontrunner. Athletes are led to believe the glory of the college game will guarantee more than it does. Their quest for a national championship, far too elusive for even the best college athletes, needs to be put into perspective: It’s only a game.
To let that game worm its way too deeply into a man’s psyche is disturbing. It leads to decisions like Gurley’s: play, not sit.
So here Gurley is with his left knee a wreck, his future uncertain, his present a portrait in disappointment and frustration and anger.
College stars will continue to face those emotions, too, because they favor intrinsic value over money. Only the latter can pay an athlete’s car note.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: AP Photo/John Bazemore)