Parsons’ choice $ign of times


If the coronavirus hasn’t been depressing enough, Penn State fans got word via social media late Tuesday night that the Nittany Lions’ best player, linebacker Micah Parsons, is opting out, or bypassing, the season — should one actually be held.

The information wasn’t surprising.

Despite just having played two seasons, Parsons has been evaluated as a lock to be selected high in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and has been viewed as perhaps the best defensive player available.

Had the virus not hit and he played this year, it was a foregone conclusion that, barring injury, Parsons would have announced during bowl season that the 2020 season would be his last at PSU.

The virus, and all its uncertainly, only hastened his departure.

Just last month, a frustrated Parsons tweeted, “The players are taking the biggest risk and aren’t getting paid for it! Someone talk to me.”

Someone obviously did, and suddenly there’s now a huge hole in the middle of the Nittany Lions’ defense for when and if it next takes the field.

The bigger picture is this is the new normal in college football, which will never be the same as we’ve known it.

Though a scholarship is worth several hundred thousand dollars over the length of a college career, which can span four to even six years, there’s been a perception among the players that the riches are spread to everybody but them.

Yes, along with room and board and plenty of gear, they receive what’s known as “cost of attendance,” which was instituted five years ago across the country and at Penn State is roughly $6,500 annually, not including what players eligible for the Pell Grant (also around $6,500) receive.

Like the Pac-12, players from the Big Ten signed a petition expressing concerns about medical assurances and other virus-related issues, and Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren met via Zoom with representatives from each school for more than two hours this past week.

Between the free-flowing transfer portal, graduate transfers, players soon able to receive compensation for use of their name, image and likeness (NIL), and the fact that they can interact with agents from the time they’re freshmen, players have more freedom and voice than ever.

And they’re using it.

Many of the elite athletes don’t really want to leave their teammates — Ki-Jana Carter wept openly at a press conference confirming his departure — but they have no choice.

The minute I read Tuesday morning about Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman opting out on the Gophers, my thoughts turned to Parsons, and his July 7 tweet about getting paid. Some 12 hours later, Yahoo.com was reporting Parsons was also leaving.

(For those wondering, Pat Freiermuth quickly nixed speculation he would follow with a Twitter emogi, suggesting he’s remaining in school.)

As for Parsons, you can’t blame him.

First-round picks earn generational money. Should Parsons go in the top 10, that’s $20 million over four years, including a $10 million signing bonus. If he climbs to the top five, which he might, that goes to $30 million with a $20 million signing bonus.

Couple that with the prospect of playing pretty much for free under the cloud of this virus and likely in front of no fans if the games are even played, and Micah Parsons’ decision wasn’t hard at all.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.


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