Injury Diagnosis Should Be Only Reason To Miss Bowl Game


Players Opting Out of Bowl Games Setting Unsavory Precedent

By John Ventola

Three of college football’s best running backs, each with a likely National Football League career ahead of them, decided to not participate in their team’s post season bowl game. All three said they wanted to start preparations for next month’s professional showcases leading up to February’s NFL draft.

While the pros and cons of those decisions can be bantered back and forth, it

Leonard Fournette

High Ankle Sprain Hampered Fournette All Season

does show how the collegiate sport and the mindset of its players are changing. A game that has featured team work, individual ability, commitment, and spirit for more than a century, is quickly turning into nothing but a stepping stone to a professional career. Selfishness, long an unwanted trait in any sport, seems to be rearing its ugly head more and more as players seek the big payoff, a lucrative professional football contract.

It is wonderful when an athlete can be called in the first rounds of the NFL draft and, in fact, sign one of those large contracts. But that scene does not pan out for most in the college game. Few are called, even fewer make it to the top. Many ‘big guys” on campus bounce around pro camps and never reach the payoff they envision, or expect to garner.

LSU’s junior Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s junior Christian McCaffrey, and Baylor’s senior Shock Linwood all said they would pass on participating in their team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft. Although the statements were very similar, the reasons behind them differ significantly.

Fournette, who played in just seven games this season because of a pre-season high-ankle sprain that was reinjured in two games in which he participated, has a legitimate


Signing With Agent And Missing Team Awards Banquet Shows Fournette selfishness

reason to sit out LSU’s Citrus Bowl appearance. The New Orleans native, who finished sixth in 2015 Heisman Trophy balloting, only carried the football 129 times during the 2016 season and picked up 843 yards, 284 of those coming in a three-touchdown performance against Ole Miss.

Those statistics pale in comparison to the 1,953 yards Fournette gained on 271 carries in 2015. After reinjuring the ankle late in this season’s opener against Wisconsin, he continued to battle, posting decent numbers before again aggravating the ankle in the Auburn loss. His outstanding Ole Miss effort was followed by his second straight subpar performance against Alabama. Given most of the carries against Bama (Derrius Guice only ran twice against Alabama), he was beat up in the shutout loss.

Slated to sit out the Florida remake game, Fournette, in plain clothes, got into a pregame shoving match with a Florida assistant coach and convinced interim Coach Ed Orgeron to let him dress out and play against the Gators. He gained only 40 yards on 12 carries, and sat out the fourth quarter in his last appearance in a Tigers uniform.

The powerful back, who scored 40 touchdowns while gaining 3,830 yards in his three-year LSU career, should enjoy a great NFL career if he can avoid a major injury. His injury earns a pass from this blogger on his decision to not play against Louisville. However, his immediate signing with an agent (which precludes LSU from making him part of the Citrus Bowl traveling party), and his decision to not attend the team’s awards


Powerful Back Will Still Go Down As One Of LSU’s Best Backs In History

banquet showed the selfishness a lot of athletes carry with them today. What’s the rush Fournette? Sign with the agent after the bowl game. You basically took your football and went home, leaving the hundred guys who played alongside you, who opened those holes for you, to lose their “team leader”.

I am sure talent evaluators will only look at the power, speed, hands, maneuverability, and toughness of a running back, but there will probably be notations on some clipboards that mention how Fournette abandoned his teammates when it was not necessary.

McCaffrey, who finished second in the 2015 Heisman race when he was named the AP College Football Player of the Year, saw his rushing total decrease by over a thousand yards as he also fought through nagging injuries this season. He gained 1,603 yards on 253 carries for Stanford but was far off the record-setting season he had last season. In 2015, McCaffrey, the son of former Stanford and NFL player Ed McCaffrey, set an NCAA record for most all-purpose yards with 3,864.

Supposedly fully healed from injury, McCaffrey should participate in Santa Clara’s Foster Farms Bowl against Maryland Tuesday night. Not only is he the Cardinal leader,


Stanford’s Leader Should Play

he is the versatile cog that makes the team go. He is a talented runner with speed, one of the team’s leading receivers, and handles kickoff and punt return when healthy.

Fifth year senior Linwood saw his numbers drop this season because of various reasons. He was suspended for the Oklahoma game for pushing a Baylor assistant coach during a 40-point blowout loss to TCU, his carries went down by 60 and his production decreased by 575 yards. Again, like McCaffrey, there should have been no way for Linwood to opt out of the bowl game. He is healthy, and the school has been providing him a free education. His sideline antics and drop in productivity could cost him some money.

The Bears, under interim coach Jim Grobe, started the season 6-0 before losing their last six games. Apparently, they did not need Linwood for their Cactus Bowl matchup with Boise State. Baylor won easily last night as wide receiver had 14 receptions for 226 receiving yards.

While the verbiage of their announcements all danced around the real reason (avoid possibility of injury), and the three schools for which they play are not involved in significant bowl games (not CFP games), it is setting a precedent that the NCAA needs to examine and consider. What if ten (like the threatened Minnesota player boycott) or fifteen players on a team decide they all want to avoid injury?

After all, even though bowl games result in nice revenue for major universities, most of the now 41 post-season games are little more than exhibition games. Only the CFP semifinals and championship game carry any real significance. Money for competing schools, and money for the cities that host the games keep the wheels going around and around for fanbases and lesser bowl games, but letting student-athletes dismiss themselves from competition because of selfish reasons could impact the game.

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