To Stay or Not to Stay: That is the Question

It's been a wild two weeks in college football as top draft eligible juniors have announced their decision to stay in school and forgo the (immediate) opportunity at millions of dollars. For each individual, the choice is unique. But now matter how you break it down, the results are always the same: Scouts will scratch their head and fans will cheer.

Nobody would reject a million dollars.

If someone knocked on your door, handed you an oversized check or a bucket of cash, 99 percent of people would probably say "thank you."

Maybe you'd invite said generous person in for some cookies and milk. But what are the chances that you say, "no thanks," turning down straight cash without any questions asked?

Apparently high. Montee Ball, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley and Johnathan Franklin are proof. They and a handful of other draft-eligible juniors announced their decisions to forgo the NFL Draft and stay in school.

These players are already part of a national 'one percent.' They are starters— superstars, even -- at top-tier Division-1 football programs around the country.

Some have yet to finish their undergraduate degrees. Some weren't happy with their draft prediction. All want to compete for a national title.

For each individual, the choice is unique. But now matter how you break it down, the results are always the same:

Scouts will scratch their head and fans will cheer.

The college football season is a grind. Even as a beat writer for a team, it's a grind –and I don't have scheduled workouts or coaches yelling at me. To voluntarily jump back into that rigorous eight-month commitment (I get paid, they do not) is a testament to the individual, the program and even the head coach.

Barkley didn't need to come back. Fans would have understood had he left. But the sanctions left him with a weird aftertaste, like trying to brush your teeth after eating an onion. The feeling didn't settle with the Trojan.

For Ball, he tied a record that was set more than 20 years ago (most touchdowns in a season by Barry Sanders in 1988). He helped his team get to the Rose Bowl in back-to-back seasons, and rushed for 122 yards in the first half of the latest one. But his draft stock –a projected second or third-rounder – wasn't favorable.

Jones, like Barkley, would have been a first-round draft pick. The Sooners will be without their top receiver, senior Ryan Broyles, and linebacker Ronnell Lewis next season. Both Jones and Barkley want to win a national championship, both put God first and both want the chance to win the Heisman.

Franklin chose to hop into a whirlwind. We don't know how UCLA's program will fare in Franklin's final collegiate season, under new head coach Jim Mora and a revamped coaching staff. But Franklin's poor performance in 2011 didn't sit well with him (nor any Bruin watching). Franklin rushed for a season-low 29 yards in the Bruins' bowl game loss to Illinois last week. The game before, against Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, he rushed for 35.

Running backs only have so much time. Taking constant hits increases a player's potential for injury. Any player at any position can get injured, but a back is running into it instead of trying to avoid it. Similar to the old cliché: when the getting is good, a back in college football should probably get going.

Franklin staying is a more obvious choice than Ball's. Ball will be without friend and quarterback Russell Wilson and Wisconsin has seen an exodus of coaches in the past month. Also, Ball led the nation with 1, 923 rushing yards. How do you improve on the kind of season he had? For Franklin, he can only go up from here.

As a spectator we don't need to examine an individual's reasons for forgoing heaps of money. We don't need to ask why a player would want to continue juggling friends, homework and lifting instead of just playing a game he loves. And we definitely can't imagine how difficult that choice might have been.

So while most of us would probably make a different decision (and hit the auto mall immediately), let's just accept their choice instead of continually asking "why."

Because we already know one thing is certain.

It's going to be a heck of a college football season. Top Stories