A new pro football league could become the biggest challenge the NCAA has faced yet.
Pacific Pro Football is a new league vetted with deep NFL ties that hopes to launch in 2018, according to The Washington Post. It’s goals, according to CEO Don Yee, are simple: give college-aged players an alternative to going to school, and pay them.
Yee, a sports agent whose high-profile clients include New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, hopes the league can “give young prospects a professional outlet to prepare for the NFL,” according to the Post — something the founding members of the league generally agree college football hasn’t done terrifically.
“As I’ve thought about this and studied it for years, I felt that it would be terrific if these emerging football players had a choice in determining how they wanted to get better at their craft,” Yee told the Post.
Additionally, Yee said, all four initial teams will be owned by the league. The league is expecting the average player salary to be $50,000.
In addition to Yee, several other notable names with NFL ties are involved: Ed McCaffrey, a 13-year NFL veteran whose son, Christian, is a top NFL draft prospect out of Stanford this season, former NFL coach Mike Shanahan, former NFL officiating head Mike Pereira, ESPN NFL reporting guru Adam Schefter, and longtime NFL executive Jim Steeg are among the prominent football names spearheading the group.
And while the NCAA offers what Pacific Pro Football cannot — free educations at prestigious universities — the Post reports the league will pay for books and tuition at local community colleges in California, where the four teams will play, should players want to enroll.
And it’s not just the players who could benefit. The league hopes to train coaches, officials and executives and serve as a feeder system for them as well. For everyone involved, league organizers just want there to be more options to work in and play football — and structured options at that.
“I think this is a unique experience for these young men,” Shanahan told the Post. “Maybe we’re talking about a guy who for some reason didn’t make grades or maybe he was at a position with competition and rather than transfer to another school and sit out a year, he now has this option. Or maybe a guy just wants to spend more time with football than he’s currently allowed.”
“It was pretty evident to me that in almost every sport, you could see a trend where athletes were starting to specialize at younger and younger ages and almost all of them had access to an earlier professional path,” he explained to the Post. “The only outlier, frankly, was American football. So in conceiving this idea, it felt like this was the right time to try this venture and to give a lot of developing talent a different option, if that’s what they would like to do.”
Of course, the NCAA isn’t going to start loosening it’s collar or wiping sweat from its brow just yet. Several developmental leagues have tried, and failed, to do the same.
But the longer players complain about not getting paid and do things like sit out bowl games to avoid injuries before getting drafted, the faster the clock starts ticking. And Pacific Pro Football will be there waiting.