Athletes Condemned for Leaving School Early, Being Individuals

Quarterback Mark Sanchez left the University of Southern California the same way he came in: Great expectations, highly touted with talent and loaded with both a mind and arm capable of wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. While he might be an elite breed of quarterback, Sanchez is like all other high-profile college athletes who came before him – as well as those who will come after – who skip out on school to enter the ranks of America’s professional sports leagues.

Following in the steps of Florida’s Percy Harvin and Georgia’s Matthew Stafford, Sanchez, a fourth-year junior, is the latest underclassman to enter the upcoming NFL draft in April. After a year and a half of taking the calls from head coach Pete Carroll on the sidelines, Sanchez made his own call when he decided to forego his senior season to fulfill his dream of someday being an NFL quarterback.

Sanchez held a press conference last Thursday announcing his decision to the public, in which his head coach most likely embarrassed himself more so than his quarterback. The biggest day of Sanchez’s life – a happy day – quickly became more about Pete Carroll and the USC program than the future of a potentially great quarterback. The coach displayed his disapproval by stating his desire for Sanchez to return for his final season, claiming the added year would greatly benefit the quarterback.

Even in these tough economic times, college student-athletes continue to be persuaded by the dollar, as much as it is a personal goal to take their game to the next level. The American dollar, however, is not recession-proof unlike education. Betting one’s future on the fluctuating value of currency is essentially a gamble with one’s life. Some of those who have left school early – Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade – have fared pretty well and even those who never attended college – Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant – have done even better. Consider them lucky. They not only made it in professional sports, but they became superstars. All were fortunate and smart enough to build up their bank accounts and secure a bright future for life after sports.

Then there are those less fortunate. Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett spent one year as a Buckeye before attempting to become eligible for the NFL. When the league denied his request, Clarett turned to a life of crime with neither an academic diploma nor a professional contract in hand. Former USC star-wide receiver Mike Williams can relate.

As the two previous athletes can attest, deciding to leave school early is a personal decision and risk. Everyone has their reasons. Some make an early exit to avoid getting injured in their final year of college and their stock drastically plummets as a result. Others do it because they need the money to provide for their families, as Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden did. Critics, as Carroll knows, view leaving school early as an abomination, but the real horror behind this growing trend is condemning athletes for making decisions that are purely their own.

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