Last Saturday, another college football controversy was created, this time South Carolina was the epicenter.
South Carolina defeated the Kentucky Wildcats, but the fact that the Gamecocks were almost upset was not the main story. The controversy occurred off the field when Jadeveon Clowney decided not to play in the game because of bruised ribs.
He received a lot of heat from people around the country, including his coaches. But Clowney did the right thing. Clowney became a widely known name after a vicious hit he made in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. Even before that, he was mentioned as a top draft prospect. His size, strength and speed have many NFL general managers salivating at the opportunity to draft him. Bruised ribs are a tough injury. It is hard to breathe let alone play in a football game. From there it can become a domino effect, leaving him open to further injury. What if Clowney is trying to protect his ribs, leaving him a partially exposed to lineman trying to make pancake blocks on him or even worse, a cut block at the knees?
If Clowney were to be out for a significant time because of a serious injury, his draft position could drop dramatically. We have seen athletes such as Matt Barkley and Willis McGahee who were hurt in their final college season and their draft positions fell. Although there is a rookie pay scale in place, money is money. What would happen if Clowney broke his ribs?
Right now, Clowney is not being paid to play. As much as we hear the NCAA say that the players receive a free education as payment, the allure of millions of dollars is important to most of the players.
According to overthecap.com, the estimated salary cap difference between the number two overall pick and the number seven overall pick is 5 million dollars, which is a big difference. How could Steve Spurrier explain allowing Clowney to get hurt worse against a 1-4 team? The Gamecocks are currently a game behind Florida and Georgia in the SEC East. If Clowney were to miss significant time because he was injured worse against Kentucky, Spurrier would be grilled by South Carolina fans.
Clowney did the right thing. There is little doubt he will be back for tougher games this year and in a sport that emphasizes team play, in this case Clowney had to think of himself first.