Jim Harbaugh proposes sweeping changes to NFL draft eligibility for college football players

Jim Harbaugh has some things he would like to change in the world of college football. 

The Michigan head coach sent out an open letter addressed to the “football community” on Thursday. In the letter, Harbaugh addressed several issues, but mainly focused on NFL eligibility rules for college players. 

Presently, players must be three years removed from high school to be eligible for selection in the NFL draft. Harbaugh wants to change that and instead allow players the ability to enter the draft at any point in their college career. Additionally, Harbaugh’s proposal would allow players who go undrafted to return to school “without penalty, provided he remains in academic compliance and does not receive payment from an agent.” NCAA rules do not allow players to return to college football once they declare for the draft. 

Harbaugh spent five years as a quarterback at Michigan and earned his degree before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1987. In his letter, Harbaugh said that path was “great for him,” but “may not be best for all.”

“There are ‘early bloomers,’ capable of competing in the NFL and earning a livelihood at an earlier age,” Harbaugh wrote. “The goal would be to create a scenario that makes adjustments for all current and future student-athletes that puts the timeline for transition to professional football at their discretion and that of their family. I propose an option that allows them to make the decision that is best for them.”

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In conjunction with that proposed change, Harbaugh suggests allowing players who leave college early the ability to return to school to complete his degree at the expense of his university. Harbaugh also believes players should be allowed to consult with agents and lawyers before signing a pro contract, a model that resembles the system for college basketball.

Harbaugh has a few other changes he’d like to see:

  • Harbaugh agrees with the proposed one-time transfer rule that would allow a player to transfer once without having to sit out at his transfer destination.

  • Allowing five years of eligibility for college football players. Presently, players are given five years to complete four years of eligibility with a one-year redshirt clause where they can compete in up to four games. 

  • Eliminating the hard cap of 25 scholarships allotted for incoming freshmen and transfers each recruiting cycle.

Below is Harbaugh’s open letter in full:

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