Football players coming out of high school will soon have an alternative to playing college football.
The new Pacific Pro Football developmental league, which will launch its inaugural season in July 2018, will offer a salary and benefits to players who have been out of high school four years or less.
“The football industry has not been innovated in a long time,” said Yee, whose client list includes quarterback Tom Brady. “This is going to expand the football industry with lots of new jobs.”
Just how much of a threat this league will be to college football remains to be seen, but the opportunity to make, on average, $50,000 a year in the Pac Pro creates an interesting alternative to the college game, which pays student athletes in the form of a scholarship and a stipend in the $3,000 to $6,000 range.
“Any new league that is introduced with a new concept faces skepticism from the college and pro football hierarchy,” said agent Leigh Steinberg. “But there is a defect in the current system. The defect is we force a whole set of young men who have no academic interest and no real ambition to ever graduate from college to attend. … The reality is that giving younger players an opportunity to follow their career path to be a professional football player is a golden opportunity.”
But Mack Brown, the former University of Texas coach and ESPN analyst, cautioned that the new league also might provide athletes with a reason not to study in high school. To provide its athletes with an educational element, the Pac Pro will offer players a year of tuition and books at a Southern California community college.
“I am still learning about the new league. However, my first instinct is that while the league could be good for some kids, the more concerning part is that it could also encourage some players to not study in high school and to not pursue a college degree,” Brown said. “Also, if players don’t make it to the NFL coming out of the league, they will not have any college education.”
The league, which will start with four teams in the San Diego and L.A. area, will operate with a free-market system, paying players whatever the market dictates. The league will sign players and allocate them to teams; there will not be a draft. Yee projects that the average salary and benefits will be around $50,000 for a season, but not all players will be paid the same — some will command a premium.
“It provides an opportunity for kids coming right out of high school, or it may provide an opportunity for kids coming out of junior college,” said former NFL executive Jim Steeg, who is serving as a Pac Pro adviser. “I have always said different people mature at different times of their lives. You may be a great athlete and not a good student.”
Each team will be owned by the league and every coach and player will be a league employee, not a team employee.
Yee expects the front office, to be based in L.A., will have 30-50 employees when the league launches. Games will be played in stadiums that range from 10,000 to 25,000 in capacity. The league is talking to area colleges about leasing their facilities.
The league’s leadership is meeting with potential investors to raise capital for startup costs. Yee said the Pac Pro will talk to media companies for digital and linear broadcasts.