NCAA Football: Jim Harbaugh Feels Undrafted Players Should Be Able To Return To School

Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines argues a call on the sideline during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium.
Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Not every player who declares for the NFL draft is selected, and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh feels that shouldn’t affect their future. Harbaugh believes that there should be an amount of flexibility for players that would give them options if an NFL team doesn’t choose them. If it were up to him, he’d allow those players to return to school for another season of eligibility if the NFL isn’t yet ready for them.

In an open letter written on Thursday, Harbaugh proposed the idea that players should be able to determine their future, as reported by ESPN.

Currently, NFL rules do not allow players to declare for the draft if they haven’t been out of high school for at least three years. Upon declaring for the NFL draft, NCAA rules do not allow players to return to college football, even if they have eligibility remaining.

Both of those rules greatly prohibit players and set limitations on their future without them having total control over what happens to them.

If players feel they are ready to make the jump into professional football, the NFL requires them to wait. If NFL teams don’t feel that a player is worthy of a draft selection, they can attempt to sign as an undrafted free agent, but the chances of them making a final roster remain slim.

The stage is shown with the NFL Logo at the 2006 NFL Draft.
  Chris Trotman / Getty Images

Harbaugh knows that some players are “early bloomers” and are ready to compete at the professional level before being out of high school for three years. He believes that the decision should be left up to the players and their families when it comes to determining their future.

In his letter, Harbaugh also proposes a plan that would allow a player to go back and play college football if not selected in the seven rounds of the NFL draft. Drafted players or those who sign as free agents would automatically give up all remaining college eligibility for NCAA football.

Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, understands Harbaugh’s stance but feels it could lead to problems. He knows that numerous coaches think it would lead to “a lot of young people making bad decisions thinking they’re going to get drafted.”

If the NFL and NCAA were ever to incorporate Jim Harbaugh’s proposals, it would lead to significant changes all around. Coaches would have to alter their recruitment plans completely, but nothing may ever come from this situation if someone doesn’t start conversations.