In the wake of the murder charge against Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is said to be thinking about not inviting college players who are academically ineligible to the NFL’s scouting combine.
In other words, if the big question at this year’s combine (courtesy of Manti Te’o) was: “Do you like girls?” The question at next year’s, at least in Goodell's peculiar fantasy, would be: “What’s your GPA?”
Even for a commissioner infamous for his clumsy overreach -- see last year’s replacement-referee debacle or the New Orleans Saints' "Bountygate" -- this is a monumentally stupid idea. Like many of Goodell’s stupid ideas, it speaks to his desire for dictatorial control over his league.
To begin with, a decision to enforce academic requirements at the combine would suggest that the murder allegedly committed by Hernandez could somehow have been averted if only Hernandez's “character issues” had been identified earlier. This is, of course, nonsense. As has been pointed out -- though apparently not loudly enough for Goodell to register -– there are plenty of NFL players with “character flaws.” (It is, after all, a game that rewards violence.) They are not all potential killers.
Goodell's hare-brained idea also rests on the false premise that a football player’s academic standing has some bearing on his character. Or, more to the point, that it has some bearing on the odds of his one day committing murder. We have heard ad nauseam that Hernandez got into trouble in college. That proves only one thing: That Hernandez got into trouble in college.
And what does staying out of trouble in college have to do with being a good football player? That’s what we’re really talking about here. Whose interests are being served by punishing talented college players who have difficulty -- for whatever reason -- maintaining their academic eligibility?
Not the players who play the game, the league that profits from it or the fans who watch it. And certainly not society’s. Goodell’s latest bad idea notwithstanding, saving the NFL from players whose grade point averages have dropped below 2.0 isn’t going to help rid the world of murder.
(Jonathan Mahler is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)