Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been shy to speak out in favor of student athletes before, and he continued to do so on Thursday.
In the past, the Michigan coach has proposed a one-time transfer rule with no eligibility restrictions. On Thursday, he sent an open letter with proposals to change the existing NFL Draft process.
Under Harbaugh’s proposal, a player could declare for the NFL Draft after any time. And, if not picked within the first 224 picks of the NFL Draft — in other words, not with a compensatory pick — a player could choose to return to college football, “provided he remains in academic compliance and does not receive payment from an agent.”
Additionally, Harbaugh proposed that anyone who leaves college football prior to graduating by signing an NFL contract would be able to complete his degree at the expense of the university, as well as allowing more consultation between an athlete and lawyers or agents prior to making a decision on leaving.
This makes up the bedrock of the proposal, but Harbaugh also included bullet points asking that five years of eligibility with no redshirt rule and an elimination of the hard scholarship cap of 25 per year be considered. This would make some sense for roster planning if his proposal were to be adopted, as teams would be left uncertain as to the makeup of their scholarship count until after the NFL Draft.
“Families and sons could have a clearer, more concise and fact-driven approach to their future,” Harbaugh wrote in the letter. “For example, if one is a student and athlete and talented enough to be offered a football scholarship to college, he could choose to continue his studies and playing career at the amateur level. After any season during his college career that he would feel ready to be a pro, he could declare himself eligible to be drafted.
“… The average pro career is three to four years. When a players’ pro career is complete, he could return to college to finish his degree. He is then not denied his professional opportunity and is more mature and likely more motivated to finish his college education and receive his degree. He also is uniquely positioned to enhance the educational experience of other classmates on campus. This option creates a scenario more likely for young men to have reached thirty having earned both a pro career and a college degree.”
Harbaugh said he consulted with his father, Jack, along with athletic director Warde Manuel extensively on the proposal. He also had a conversation with University President Mark Schlissel.
Manuel publicly came out in support of Name, Image and Likeness legislation for student-athletes recently.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Manuel said in an April interview with WTKA. “We need to put some more protections in there for the institution; for the student-athlete, quite frankly. But I think we’ve already been doing it.”