Should a professional sports league impose penalties on its players -- its employees -- for rule infractions while in college?
That question is now a hot topic on sports talk radio and TV in the wake of the decision by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of the NFL season for college rule infractions.
Pryor and several other players traded Ohio State memorabilia for cash and discounted tattoos.
Goodell, afer discussing the matter with the executive director of the player's union and Mark Emmert, the head of college football's governing body, agreed to allow Pryor in the NFL supplemental draft (he was picked by the Oakland Raiders in the third round) on the condition he serve his five-game suspension in the NFL.
It seems the commissioner is sending a message (with the blessing of the NCAA) to college football players -- bad behavior in college will not be easily rewarded with a fat NFL contract.
Right now, college athletes can get caught breaking rules and essentially walk away from college leaving the athletic programs to suffer the consequences.
This would seem to be a factor -- but not the only factor -- in the surge of bad behavior by college athletes, particularly football players. The coaches and athletic departments, as well as the boosters, all have a large share of the blame.
Still, if the very best players were motivated to stay clean that would go a long, long way in curbing the problem of NCAA violations.
And while it makes little difference to most of us whether, for example, a University of Miami booster showered players with millions of dollars in cash and favors, it does affect society. It skews our sense of right and wrong. The more it goes on, the easier it is to justify with the old "everybody does it."
College football is essentially the minor leagues for the NFL. The NFL has a stake in college football's future.
It would be unwise and unrealistic to even attempt to punish retroactively NFL players for their actions in college, but it is possible to predicate players' draft status on their following of college rules. Players could be suspended for a number of games (which would cost them money) or, perhaps, be ruled ineligible for the draft for a year (costing them a lot of money).
Rules are now in place on how many years a player must attend college before being eligible for the draft. This is not different.
Goodell fired a shot across the bow. College football players should be paying attention.