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There’s no “Clowney-ing” around with eligibility rules

Published 1:29pm Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The NFL Draft isn’t until April, but I am already excited. The pro football draft captures my attention more so than any other because I have had the opportunity to get to see so many of the future stars play in college.
Mock drafts are always fun to dissect this time of year, too.
This year’s are particularly fun because no one has a good grasp on who will be taken first overall.
The only consensus is that the player EVERY team would take with the No. 1 pick is not eligible to be drafted until 2014: Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney’s ineligibility for the draft raised an interesting debate last week: Should Clowney sit out the 2013 college football season to protect himself from injury?
The debate grew even more heated when the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Kentucky’s Norlens Noel, was hurt against Florida last Tuesday.
Is it fair that Clowney risks his safety and potential livelihood playing in college where he doesn’t get paid? My personal (selfish) opinion is yes, it is fair.
First of all, I would totally understand if Clowney wanted to sit out next season.
It’s certainly his right, and his injury fears are legitimate.
If he were to sit, there is no doubt he would still be a top-five pick, if not No. 1.
At the same time, I love the NFL’s rule that a player must be three years removed from high school to be eligible for the draft.
Having those three years as a sample size allows the league to see the player in action and better determine his draft stock.
It should be noted that Clowney is the exception, not the rule, too.
In a day and age where freaks roam college sidelines in droves, Clowney is the King of the Freaks.
It’s not every year that a player who is only a true sophomore is the obvious choice for the NFL’s top draft pick, no matter the year.
I wrote earlier that my opinion on this matter is selfish, and that is true; the reason being that I love the college game and, if college players were eligible to go pro earlier, the game would undoubtedly suffer grave consequences. If you don’t believe me, just look at college basketball today.
Hoopsters are able to leave after only one year of school, which is a terrible rule for the players, the fans, the sport and the NBA.
One year does not give the league a great measuring stick with which to judge ,nor does it allow the fans to truly become enamored  with the player.
Meanwhile, the players are forced to spend a year at school (when they really wanted to leave straight out of high school), and the college game is left with a group of guys who are simply running out the eligibility clock in some cases.
I would love to see basketball adopt more of the college baseball/MLB approach where high schoolers can go pro or they can go to college for three years.
Rarely is there an exception for an in-between scenario.
This way, the players who are set on bypassing college can while others can blossom during their collegiate tenure.
Pro football is different in the sense that no high schooler is ready for the NFL right after graduation.
Therefore, I think the draft rule currently in place works best for the players, leagues and sport in general.
Coming back to the debate on Clowney, I certainly understand people’s concern.
Perhaps there can be a program in place that would allow him sizable insurance should he be irreparably harmed playing college ball.
But the best thing for football overall is for Clowney to suit up for South Carolina one more year.
Robinson is a columnist for The Outlook.