Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why don't more schools help their athletes go pro?

I had a story last week on schools that provide counseling for athletes who go pro, featuring Boston College's Warren Zola (some of you will recognize him from this very site). Zola is a dean at the BC business school, and this is a niche he has carved out for himself after recognizing that many athletes are ill-prepared for the transition. Players like former BC lineman Anthony Castonzo, a first-round pick by the Colts, (pictured) said they wouldn't have been able to navigate the transition without help.

The most interesting part, to me, is how few schools -- about 25 percent, by some estimates -- provide the service. I would think it would be a nice recruiting tool to say to a recruit, "We'd like you to meet Warren. When the time comes for you to go pro, he's here to help you with everything you need." This would play right into the dreams of high schoolers, who all think they are destined for NFL stardom (or NBA, or MLB, etc.). It seems like it would help the schools, too, because having someone who knows the terrain can help avoid recruiting violations.

But only few schools have advisers in house, and some more hire outside consultants to manage the process. Ironically, the issue might be that the NCAA requires the advisers to be independent from the athletic department. While this removes much of the conflict of interest that could arise in the decision whether to leave early, it also takes away the most obvious source of funding for the position.

Zola has written about reform in college athletics before, including this law review article where he spells out the issues in the Professional Sports Counseling Panels, as they're called in the NCAA bylaws.