Look yourself in the mirror, dig deep, and ask yourself honestly – Is it worth it?
There is an immense amount of school pride at play here. This is an entire movement that comes with a lot of pressure and opportunity costs to consider in making the decision: Opt out, or not?
Our job isn’t to tell you what to do – that is for you to figure out. Our job is to provide you with enough education to help you carefully weigh your options and decide what makes the most sense for your situation and your future.
1. Health – We’re dealing with a global pandemic. This is nothing to take lightly. That said, your institution should (ahem) do everything in their power to keep you protected. This virus is tricky though. Are you, as an individual, or your loved ones or those that you live with, in a higher risk group? Take this all into account. Think long-term not just in this moment.
2. Goals – A wise, NFL veteran and Ivy League alum, Josh Martin, recently gave me a powerful nugget of wisdom for young athletes: “Understanding why you play the game has tremendous value, not only for your career, but also in figuring out what you want to do next.” That stuck with me. Have you ever stepped back to answer these questions honestly? What are your short term and long-term goals? Is your goal to play at the next level? To make a statement? To chase school records? Is it team pride and your teammates around you? Is it the possibility of providing for your family at the next level? How pivotal is this season for scouts and film? Do you have a greater opportunity on the field this season with a revolving roster? What is your goal professionally and for your education? The fact is – football is not a safe game. When you throw the increased possibility of contracting (or spreading) a deadly virus because of the nature of the game, does it make sense for you?
3. Draft Expectations – If you’re expected to go 1-32, think hard about this decision. It may make the most sense to sit this season out and start training for the Combine and NFL Draft prep.
4. Loss of Value Insurance (LOV) – Basedon the draft expectations above, loss of value insurance could be pivotal if you choose to play. LOV protects a student-athlete’s future contract value from decreasing below a predetermined amount due to a significant injury or illness suffered during the policy’s designated coverage period. That said, it doesn’t come cheap and requires a medical exam and underwriting. There may also be exclusions for pre-existing conditions or injuries. With LOV, insurers determine expected draft position. Policies are typically between $1M-$10M based on that expectation and eligibility. Yes – COVID-19 is an illness that can (in some cases) cause serious, long term affects. It would be covered by LOV. Still, there are many questions as it relates to LOV with the possible cancellation of a season (after it is started) and the potential for an additional year of eligibility.
5. Family Situation – Last week, I had a deep conversation with NFL defensive lineman Akeem Spence. Spence has been extremely vocal around NFL player opt outs. In Spence’s situation, his fiancé is pregnant, and the couple is living in Florida. Although he is currently a free agent, Spence and his agent received calls by the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers. Spence told me, “I wouldn't feel good as a man, as a future husband and to my kids, to leave my pregnant wife to go work out in a time like now, because the circumstances are very unclear.” He also noted the higher taxes to live in San Francisco.
6. Scholarship/Education – As said by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, "SEC student-athletes have frequently expressed their desire to compete, but it is important for student-athletes and their families to know the financial support committed to them by their institutions will not be at risk because of health concerns presented by the current pandemic." Noted. If an athlete decides to opt out due to health or safety concerns, Universities will honor their scholarships and student-athletes will remain in good standing with their team.
7. Coach Relationships – What will the coaches think? Check out this article in the New York Times on a coach’s reaction to a student athlete opting out (and being a part of Pac 12 #WeAreUnited players group). Coach and staff relationships are pivotal at the next level. They’re pivotal around Pro Days, the Combine, NFL Draft, and even free agency. Some of those relationships will bring opportunity (or potential demise). If a coach is rationale, this shouldn’t be an issue. There is the possibility, though, that it could backfire.
After thoughtfully going through these seven questions, you should have a little more clarity about what direction to take. In addition to the above, the old fashion Pros vs. Cons route may be helpful too. If you need a sounding board, don’t hesitate to reach out (text - 954.519.4742 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).