University of Houston running back Charles Sims has been in limbo this spring, but one thing seems certain: He’s leaving the Cougars. One option is this summer’s NFL Supplemental Draft. Another is is to transfer programs so he can increase his draft stock. Switching schools is a decision I believe Sims will make and I think it’s a good one.
Most see the logic here, but there is still a surprising undercurrent of disappointment among fans when a player chooses to leave his current school for another college – especially on his own volition. College football is business disguised as amateur sport, but it’s instances like this where it appears that the responsibility of maintaining the nobility of college football’s “rah-rah” veneer is on the amateur rather than the professionals running the game.
Emotional ties to a college still run deep and I don’t blame alumni for feeling this way. For some it’s an affront to their sense of loyalty to see a scholarship player “ditch” a program like Sims. However, I think this underscores a disconnect between the way alumni and fans view student-athletes and the rest of the student population.
We don’t question a student’s decision to enroll at an MBA program at a different school after he earns an undergraduate degree in business. This is the natural path for a student to maximize his earning potential in the job market. No one questions his loyalty.
Yet some don’t see it the same way with student athletes. Sims – who has earned his degree – has another year of eligibility in the sport he hopes to play as his full-time job. Just like the business student enrolling in an MBA program, Sims has strong chance to help himself in the professional football job market if he gets another year of training.
The running back is doing the right thing by studying the job market, getting feedback on his talents, and weighing the possibility of going to a higher profile football program that can help him get another year of preparation for the pros. No disrespect to the Cougars football program, but Sims understands that the perception of playing in the Big East, Big Ten, or Pac-12 carries more weight with many NFL organizations.
Houston’s athletic program will allow Sims to transfer, but ESPN’s Joe Schad says the running back may leave only if he avoids the following programs:
- Any school in the American Athletic Conference
- Any school on Houston’s 2013 schedule
- Any school in the state of Texas
Schad’s source connected to the Cougars program says Sims is looking at Cal and West Virginia. Both situations make sense – Coaches Sonny Dykes and Dana Holgorsen are using the Houston Air Raid offense and working in conferences where Sims will get to play better competition on a bigger stage. There’s also incentive to head west: Cal’s projected starter at running back Brendan Bigelow is recovering from spring knee surgery.
Purely from the standpoint of raising one’s draft stock, Russell Wilson and Charles Sims have a lot in common right now. Where it differs is what I think ‘the game’ (agents, trainers, and other people who make money off athletes) of pro football feeds a quarterback and a running back.
Quarterbacks tend to have longer careers so there’s often encouragement for them to stay in school another year. They get to gain another year of maturity as a young adult and work at their craft on a stage where they continue to get in-game experience. Some believe this line of reasoning is just a front that the money-draft status wasn’t strong enough to go.
They may have a point, but as a parent of a young adult in college I can tell you that the potential for growth during the ages 18-22 is tremendous. Every year can feel like a person packed in three. My kid left for college a young adult who knew everything, but really didn’t know anything. I see this all the time with students I interview at Georgia.
On paper, their credentials and accomplishments are fantastic. Many go on to earn multiple undergraduate degrees, major athletic achievements, Wall Street job offers, successful entrepreneurial ventures. I’ve even seen two Rhodes Scholars pass through here.
They say all the right things, but they’re playing a role.
They’re not phony; many of them are ‘trying life on’ the same way we go to a department store to shop for clothing. My daughter chose fashion design as her course of study while working two jobs. She’s naturally a math-oriented person, but she has been making clothing for several years and has a strong creative streak.
Anyone who has earned an arts degree that requires applied application of the study knows, working two jobs and undertaking a course of study with twice the number of classes and time-consuming projects as the average undergraduate major – who will ultimately go into a less competitive field with more earning potential – is a tough road.
I’ve been there. At some point you look up from the workload around the middle of your sophomore year and see future doctors, lawyers, and bankers taking 3-4 classes a semester and still having the time of their lives. My daughter did the same thing.
However, I’ve seen my daughter learn a great deal about managing her time, her money, and resolving interpersonal conflicts. These are real life skills that you can tell a kid about, show them how to do it as the model in your everyday life, and guide their initial decisions with constructive reinforcement and practice, but until they are doing it without a net, the lessons don’t stick.
In the past year, Chandler decided to change her major and transfer schools. Since that time she’s worked a lot, saved a lot, and planned her next steps better than I imagined. The difference in how she approaches her life this summer and last is like seeing a different person with the same personality. When my wife and I think about how much Chandler has learned during this time it feels a lot more time has passed than what’s on the calendar.
These are reasons why I think it makes sense that most college quarterbacks should stay in school. That additional year of learning to manage real life benefits them and their future NFL team. Ask Pete Carrol about Marc Sanchez.
Running back is another story. It seems this position is encouraged to leave early. I think there’s a lot of selling based on fear.
What if you get hurt . . .
You could lose your job to a underclassman . . .
The average NFL career for a running back is a lot shorter than you think . . .
All of these things about competition, injury, and career length are true. For every junior like Stevan Ridley, there’s three like Tellis Redman, Danny Ware and Tony Hollings. While he had to announce he was leaving Houston to begin the process of shopping other athletic programs, it appears he has done a good job of taking a deliberate approach. And I think it would be a wise decision for him to return to school.
Sims has the talent to develop into an NFL starter. However, I do think another year at a program where the expectations will be higher, the surrounding talent a little better, and the stage a little bigger will help reinforce a healthy amount of confidence and maturity that he’ll need to develop into a successful pro.
Up Next: The film on Sims and why I think his style makes him a disciple of the Demarco Murray and Darren McFadden school.
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