ROLL OF THE DICE
When people go to Vegas, they know the odds are against them and there is little likelihood of beating the house. But, in professional sports, delusions of outsmarting the system run rampant. Billionaire owners bet millions on the hope that teenagers and twenty-somethings will pay huge dividends. So, can there be a bigger gamble than drafting college athletes?
Anyone who's ever gone to college knows that distractions are as big a part of campus life as the education apparatus. So, dedication, even among the most focused of students can be a fleeting thing. Add in the atmosphere surrounding most student-athletes, and you'll probably get someone who's more "monkey business" than "down-to-business."
Which is not to say that all athletes are directionally-challenged. But, those, who play in revenue generating sports, are often given skewed priorities. Unfortunately, that's what often makes them worth the high-stakes gamble. When their goal is sports-centric and not student-centric, their abilities as athletes take precedence over their skills as people.
LET HISTORY BE YOUR GUIDE
Since professional sports leagues are as image-conscious as they are profit-driven, most spend a lot of time and a lot of money making sure their employees are solid citizens in addition to top-flight athletes.
Before drafting college athletes, teams perform background checks, personality and intelligence tests, drug screening and probing interviews before offering any long term financial commitment. But, they are not always enough.
Bad apples will always get through. Either because of an athlete's deception or an owner's arrogance. All-time draft "Bust Lists" are favorites among fans. They're littered with names like Ryan Leaf, Tony Mandarich, Mark Prior, Eric Lindros and Ralph Sampson.
Now, to be fair, some of these athletes did not pan out because of injuries. But just as many flamed out or never got started because of attitudes, drug problems or an inability to adapt their talents to a higher caliber of competition.
NO CRYSTAL BALL
If drafting college athletes was an exact science, every team that ever chose a lottery pick would be a lock to win a championship. Usually just the opposite is true. Desperate teams often look for a short term fix to cure problems that developed over time. So urgency often trumps due-diligence.
For some teams, quality talent scouting mitigates the risk. Others just get lucky. But, no amount of evaluation can predict the future.
For every sure-fire success like Peyton Manning, there's a diamond in the rough like Tom Brady or Mike Piazza, the last player taken in the Major League Baseball draft. Piazza was chosen as a favor to Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, and he developed into one of the most prolific hitting catchers in league history.
So, with piles of money waiting for them at the end of their college sports careers, no matter how long they are, physically gifted kids will always be ready to cash in. However, for those with money and futures on the line, drafting college athletes will never be a sure bet.