Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Regrets? There's insurance for that

(Ran 10/29)

It is a major topic of conversation after each college football season – who will stay in school, and who will leave school early to go into the NFL draft?

Last season, the three Heisman finalists were all underclassmen. All three quarterbacks, Oklahoma Sooner Sam Bradford, who won the trophy; Florida Gator Tim Tebow, the 2007 winner; and Texas Longhorn Colt McCoy; decided to return to college for at least another year.

But just to be safe, each took out an insurance policy, ranging from $1-5 million, in case of career-ending injury.

Sam Bradford's father, Kent, is an insurance specialist. Over the summer, the elder Bradford was quoted by ESPN having said, "The odds of a kid getting a career-ending injury are slim. But if it did happen, and you had the chance to insure, chances are you would feel pretty dumb. You're insuring earnings power."

In the case of his own son, that insurance policy may have been a smart decision. The Heisman Trophy winner injured his shoulder in the first game of the season. He sat out for four weeks, which ruined his chances for back-to-back Heisman trophies but certainly didn’t ruin his season. Then, in his second game back, Bradford re-injured his shoulder, and last week he opted to have season-ending surgery… and, ironically, to enter the NFL draft.

Players take a gamble when they decide to return to college for another season. Usually, they’re trying to increase their draft position; sometimes, they’re just making the decision to live like a kid for one more year, or they’re returning for the chance to win a National Championship.

In Bradford’s case, the gamble didn’t work in his favor. Had he left after his sophomore season, he was a consensus Top-5 pick; some even had him going first overall. He was coming off a season in which he was 328-of-483, throwing 4,720 pass yards and 50 touchdowns with only eight interceptions.

A year later, he could still go in the top-10, but that isn’t as likely of an outcome. Now there are questions about durability, due to the double-injury to his throwing shoulder, that weren’t there last season. No matter how good a player is, teams often second-guess, giving millions of dollars to a top-5 or top-10 pick who may have injury issues – just ask Michael Crabtree.

The insurance policies these players, who intend to play football for a living, take out are considered a "business expense." According to Sports Illustrated, using a private agent, a player can expect to pay $9,000-$10,000 per $1 million of coverage, depending on where the player buys his policy and how much protection he needs. With these insurance policies, like any kind of insurance, you are paying for protection in the off-chance that you may need it. Most players won’t use it, just like most people don’t use their flood insurance, but having it for that 1 percent of the time when it is needed sure does pay off in the end.

Sure, a large part of Sam Bradford’s injury this season was a much weaker offensive line, but a lot of it was just plain-old bad luck. That’s what an insurance policy is for.

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