In My Ohio

On Leaving College Early

Darren C. Demaree
​Ever since the Buckeyes won the National Championship on Monday night there has been a constant stream of articles about the non-senior Buckeyes that might declare to enter the NFL Draft (three-start QB Cardale Jones mainly), leaving their eligibility behind and their degree in a temporary stasis. There have been articles pointing out that even though Championship Game MVP running back Ezekiel Elliot isn’t eligible for the draft, he should forego his last year of eligibility and simply train and prepare for next year’s draft. Due to the different rules to enter each professional sports league, we have these discussions a lot. It’s a larger question than just a sports question though, and it addresses the purpose of today’s higher education.
The last generation of college graduates is still fighting for employment. The generation currently enrolled has no idea if the economic risks they’re taking (student loans, personal debts, parental burdens) are ultimately worth the experience. As a holder of several degrees, someone currently paying back those loans, I ask myself these questions all of the time. I’m in favor of broader minds addressing the larger questions of society, and I think taking a philosophy or a chemistry class if you’re an Economics major is a good thing. I was an English major and an accidental Religious Studies minor, and it’s those religions classes that I remember the most. I found a professor that spoke to me, and I listened to him as much as possible. It helped me to develop into a more complete person.
The challenge isn’t to become a complete person though. It’s to mature to a level where you are living a self-sustainable life, and possibly in a position to contribute to society as a whole. If I had written a bestselling book at twenty, would I have bothered to finish my undergraduate degree? I definitely wouldn’t have gone to graduate school. If my goal was to become the best writer I could, shouldn’t I at that point just dedicate myself to the craft full-time? Just because you leave college that doesn’t mean you turn off your brain. College also isn’t a door that slams never to open again. Writing, like a great business or technology idea isn’t something that is limited by time. You can do it for seventy years if you are so inclined.
However, athletes, especially football players, get to play only so many games before their bodies won’t allow them to anymore. Each of them has a counter registering every hit, every explosive move, every sprint, every throw, and their bodies will only do that so many times at an elite level before they just can’t do it anymore. Our bodies are incredible, and incredibly predictable. They break down, always sooner than we would like, and if the majority of your money is going to come from sports you can’t waste a single quarter or half or period or inning of play. If you’re told that there is a giant paycheck, and sometimes it is a paycheck that can ensures generational wealth (as in your children will be taken care of and their children after them), then you should take it.
I think college is still an integral part of the education and maturation of younger adults. I have two children and my wife and I have been saving for their college since they were born. It’s incredibly important, and worth every sacrifice to ensure that if they want to they can go. If one of them has an offer to be a professional at eighteen, to participate in their dream of dreams without a college education, I will have a great difficulty telling them that they have to go to college. No matter what, education is the most important developmental tool we have, but that education is available in many ways. Maybe they go to college at twenty-five if the dream dies? Maybe Cardale Jones will get drafted, play only a season or two (which is about the league average), and then head back to Ohio State to finish his degree. Smart people, like smart quarterbacks, see the whole field, they understand the pressure, and when there is an opening, they fire without pause or worry.