Scooter Hobbs column: Why not stay a few more years

Published 9:29 am Saturday, December 23, 2023

As someone who took somewhat of a scenic route through college myself, I can sympathize.

But if you’re paying attention to this glorious, holiday bowl season, while the young, whipper-snapper opt-outs may get all the publicity, there seem to be just as many who refuse to leave college, who seemingly couldn’t be dynamited off campus.

What’s with all the greybeards in the bowl games? And how did this happen?

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For every opt-out, there seems to be a guy back there returning punts or somesuch while waiting a couple of months for the social security checks to start arriving.

What college football really needs is an AARP Bowl.

If this trend continues, most of the college NIL endorsement money will be tied up in Rogaine, Geritol, maybe Medicare supplements and bifocals.

And no wonder most of the bowl games seem to be in Florida.

Before long the sidelines will include a retirement village next to the medical tent and the training tables will feature Early Bird specials.

Bring on Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn for a coin flip — the movie “Old School” is playing out in the bowl season.

LSU will face a sixth-year quarterback in the Reliaquest Bowl against Wisconsin’s Tanner Mordecai, who is on his third school in the long and winding educational road.

But there are plenty of seventh-year seniors out there, including Texas-San Antonio quarterback Frank Harris, who according to an ESPN article, has been on the team for over half of the Roadrunners’ 13-year football existence.

Some of these guys could be almost through med school by now.

Or, more likely, standing in the Dean’s office, ala John Belushi in “Animal House,” bemoaning “seven years of college down the drain.”

But even though most have technically graduated, none seem interested in leaving college life.

Back in the day, it was pretty simple — four years of eligibility, with five years to get it in once the clock started clicking with initial enrollment.

Now you can’t get rid of them. Most blame, or credit, the free season, eligibility-wise, that every player got during the COVID year of 2020. But that doesn’t explain seven years of college.

But there any number of ways to sneak in another two, three — who knows? — maybe nine years, mostly through injury-hardship or other unfortunate ordeals.

Maybe as a concession, the Associated Press All-American team no longer identifies its all-stars by class. That’s so 2010s-ish.

Really, your freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior modifiers, those are just labels, sometimes too hard to identify with, let alone tell the whole story.

No, this year the AP’s teams — first, second and third — are listed by number years on campus, as often as not in this transfer portal era, multiple campuses. Or is it campii?

Fifth-year senior Jayden Daniels, your LSU Heisman Trophy winner and first-team All-American quarterback, was a relative baby of the AP team at just five years and two schools of college service.

Second-team All-American quarterback Michael Penix of Washington was one of nine — count ‘em, nine! — sixth-year seniors scattered about the first through third teams. There were 15 more fifth-year seniors. The three quarterbacks alone had a combined 16 years of college.

Keep in mind this was the elite, the crème de la crème of college football — the kind of athlete you’d think would by high-tailing it for the NFL as soon as possible. By rule that’s three years out of high school, what used to be known as the junior year.

These days juniors are just now getting through orientation.

Since we already have seventh-year seniors playing football well into their dotage, I’m guessing next year there will be ground broken for a handful of eighth-year seniors.

All it should take is for one of the varsity elder statesmen to go before a judge and petition — pick a reason, any reason — for yet an eighth year of eligibility. The judiciary doesn’t seem capable of telling any college athlete “no” these days so long as no bail money or district attorneys are involved.

Already Virginia has a 34-year-old kicker, Matt Ganyard, a father of two who not only has graduated, he did an eight-year hitch flying helicopters in the Marines before finally, this year, making the Cavs’ team 14 years after failing an initial place-kicking tryout at the school.

It took multiple loopholes for that one, the main one stating that, no matter when you first enroll, the eligibility clock doesn’t tick while you’re away in military service.

That’s persistence. And true love of the college life.

Maybe with NIL money, they’d have to take pay-cut, even for the NFL.

Or else college is way more fun than even my extended stay remembers it.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at

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