Santistevan: NCAA needs to follow own example, change NFL draft rules for players’ sake

Sergio Santistevan

The NCAA is often criticized for corruption, not paying players and their insane transfer rules, and rightfully so.

But, after watching last weekend’s NFL draft, it became clear there is one rule worth applauding the NCAA for which has changed the way college basketball is played, and it has nothing to do with what goes on the court.

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Three years ago, the NCAA created a rule that allows players to enter the NBA draft, but withdraw their name 10 days after the NBA combine. This allows college basketball players to attend the combine, gain information from professionals on their game, work out with individual teams and go through interviews with pro teams. Any player who is invited to the combine and doesn’t get drafted now has the opportunity to return to school without losing any scholarship or sacrificing their college eligibility.

This rule benefits underclassmen who are undecided on returning to school or gaining that elusive paycheck. It helps those players get a good idea of where they will get selected, if at all.

a player runs off the field
Preston Williams runs off the field after a play in the game against Illinois State. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

The NCAA even went a step further this year by allowing those players who declare for the draft to hire an agent as well. The agent can then pay for meals, transportation and lodging for the player and their family.

After watching three days of the NFL draft it became clear that the NCAA needs to adapt the same rules for football.

Of the 103 underclassmen that declared for the NFL draft, 29% went undrafted. Those players have or will sign contracts as undrafted free agents, which means less money.

One of the most notable undrafted players was Colorado State standout wide receiver Preston Williams. Williams had an excellent year with the Rams, recording 96 catches for 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns. Anybody who watched a CSU football game this season knew Williams was the best player on the field for the Rams. So, how did he go undrafted?

Due to an off-the-field issue in 2014, Williams wasn’t invited to the combine. He wasn’t able to showcase his skills in front of the best scouts, and teams were potentially scared off because of his past behavior.

Nico Carvacho looks for an opening during the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament against Boise State on March 13 in Las Vegas, NV. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

Williams did sign an NFL contract immediately after the draft with the Miami Dolphins, and he received interest from 10 other teams. But, if given the chance, would Williams have returned to school to prove that he’s not that same person from 2014?

After gaining evaluations from scouts and seeing that he was potentially projected to go undrafted, would Williams be preparing for the 2019 season with the Rams instead? Who knows. But it’s unfortunate that many players like Williams aren’t given a chance to control their own destiny.

CSU men’s basketball center Nico Carvacho recently entered his name into the 2019 NBA draft. Carvacho will be able to gain essential information from scouts on how to improve his game going forward. There is a good chance Carvacho will return to CSU, and he will return a better player, knowing what he needs to work on.

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The same could have been said for Williams, but he wasn’t given that chance.

If the NCAA really cares about their student athletes, they will look in the mirror and realize their football rules are depriving many young players a chance to better their lives and careers.

Sergio Santistevan can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TheRealsSergio.