Bo Jackson is probably the most famous example of a two-sport star in recent memory. In Jackson's case, he was on football scholarship and Auburn's baseball program was basically given a major league talent with no strings attached, besides football. Jackson won the Heisman in 1985 and then was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1986 NFL Draft. He was traded to Oakland and played his whole career with the Raiders. His football career ended prematurely because of an awful hip injury suffered on the gridiron. Jackson was a dominating player while at Auburn. His bruising power and swift speed led the Tigers to four straight bowl games and one SEC title.
While football was the sport that Jackson was known best for in college, he was no slouch at baseball either. Baseball proved to be something that "Bo knew". Jackson played baseball at Auburn before heading into a career as a professional baseball player. He still holds Auburn's career slugging record with .729 for a career and .864 for a season. Starting with the Kansas City Royals in 1986, Jackson was able to play longer in baseball than football because of the hip injury.
While at Auburn, both the football and baseball programs were rewarded with his participation. The football team really had never been higher and Jackson helped the baseball team score runs by the dozen with his bat.
What has changed? Why are there no more Bo Jackson-type stars out there now? You don't get a Bo Jackson to come through your program everyday. Still, the amount of value that colleges have gotten out of multi-sport athletes has fallen; mainly do to major league baseball.
Drew Henson, who would be heading into his senior season at Michigan had it not been for MLB, signed a six-year, 17 million dollar contract to play for the New York Yankees. "To me, there would be no greater goal than to help win a World Series for the New York Yankees. I will keep memories of the University of Michigan close to my heart," added the former multi-sport-star turned multi-millionaire.
Professional baseball has been a popular addition to a Division I quarterback's resume. Quincy Carter, Buck Belue, Chris Weinke, and Josh Booty all played minor league baseball before or during college football.
The baseball-quarterback has had a difficult time succeeding as of late. With the exception of Weinke, the 2000 Heisman winner, the phenomenon of the baseball-QB has proved to be slightly disappointing.
Carter, most impressive at Georgia his first two seasons, fell on hard times in 2000 and never did recover to turn around his junior season. After the firing of Jim Donnan, Carter decided to leave for the NFL. Dallas surprisingly selected Carter in the second round.
While Georgia benefited from not having to fund Carter's scholarship, it only truly benefited from his affiliation with baseball for two seasons, the other two seasons (2000 and 2001) must be considered a disappointment because of the combination of both poor play and the fact that he did not play his final season. Would Carter have played four seasons at Georgia if he had not gone into the minor leagues?
Josh Booty was a heavily sought after quarterback his senior season of high school. Instead of taking a scholarship and going to college to play, he tried the minor league baseball route. It did not work, and he wound up at LSU. Baton Rouge was no more kind to Booty than Athens was to Carter in 2000. Booty found himself replaced as the starting quarterback and eventually decided to move on to the NFL. LSU got limited use from their baseball to football project.
Once thought of as great value, the baseball-football combination is no longer as appetizing as it once was. First of all, a recruit deciding to play pro baseball instead of taking a scholarship for football can burn a school. In essence, throwing away that scholarship. Second, the summer is often always devoted to baseball. Because the baseball players are under contract for baseball and not under scholarship for football, their summers will more than likely be spent chewing sunflower seeds rather than taking snaps or going through tackling drills.
What has changed since Bo was roaming the plains in Auburn is the mindset of today's multi-sport athlete. Now it is not good enough, by today's athletic standards, to be both a football and baseball player in college. Now, the trend is to grab the minor league contract (or money), like Carter and Patrick Pass did and pay your way to play football in college. It is slightly distorted really. Although an amateur in one sport, a player could be receiving money at another, most likely baseball. It throws the whole chemistry of a team out of whack.
The professional athletes are not, to my knowledge, given a different set of team rules to go by in the bureaucracy of a college program. But at the same time a professional athlete, weather it be a pro baseball player or any other pro sport, has dispensable income that regular scholarship athletes do not. The kid from Camilla is going to struggle with money the whole time that he is in college, but his Minor League teammate has a check in the mail regularly.
It was once thought that only college baseball programs need to be concerned with the Major League Baseball Draft, now many college football programs are apprehensive too. The dynamics of the relationship between Baseball and college football have changed, and it is not for the better I am afraid.