“The XFL’s player eligibility guidelines are in development,” an XFL spokesman told Pro Football Talk. “The XFL is not restricted by the rules that exist in other professional football leagues.”
The comment arrives just one day after the conclusion of the 2018-19 college football season. Clemson’s true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence dazzled behind 347 passing yards and three touchdowns to help the Tigers win their second national championship in three years.
Lawrence has to stay in school another two years (or at least not join the NFL) because of the collectively bargained deal between the NFL and NFLPA which creates a de facto free farm system, and provides colleges with a pool of cheap labor. Players have to be three years out of high school to be eligible for the NFL Draft.
During a December podcast interview with with Sports Business Radio Road Show, Luck said flatly: “We’re not subject to that.”
“Theoretically we could take a player right out of high school. I doubt we’ll do that,” Luck said, noting the difference in physical development between an 18-year-old and the 24-to-25-year-old fringe NFLers they plan to build their base from.
“But I wouldn’t rule it out,” Luck said. “Nor would I rule out taking a player who played a year of college football and let’s say isn’t eligible academically, which happens. Or a player who is two years out of college, and is transferring, and would have to sit out a year. A lot of guys don’t want to. . . . We are in that position to be able to take players who wouldn’t be eligible to play in the NFL. . . .
“But that’s an option that we have and we’re going to look at it long and hard. There are a lot off very good college players after a year or two who may not want to play that third year of college football, may need to earn a little money, support the family. That’s not uncommon as well.”
Luck has said the league will pay salaries in the $250,000-$300,000 range for top players (i.e. quarterbacks) for what could be a five-month commitment. That’s an alternative for a player who doesn’t want to develop his skills for room and board and the opportunity to take classes which fit into his football schedule.
College players can also take out “loss of value” insurance policies to protect themselves against an injury which would affect their draft stock.
There’s no indication that Lawrence is anything but happy with his Clemson experience and wants to stay. But if he decides he’d rather get paid while developing, it sounds like there’s a league that would be happy to let him.