Picture a man standing in line at a local convenience store, waiting to pay for a pack of gum. Suddenly, the glass wall in front bursts, sending shards crackling onto the ground. Armed men in black ski masks break through the door, rip open the cash register, and toss wads of cash into string bags. The thieves hand the man in line their weapons, for fear of getting caught with an unregistered firearm. Distressed and confused, the man in line cannot dispose of the gun fast enough. The police arrive in an instant, and what was supposed to be a routine stop becomes a tale of a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Similarly, LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins seems to have been a victim of poor circumstance. Leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, Collins—a certainty to be drafted in the first round—became associated with the murder of his former ex-girlfriend Birttney Mills. Collins was forced to leave Chicago, the site of the draft, and return to Louisiana for questioning. Though he is not a suspect, Collins saw his draft stock plummet, as many teams took him off their draft board altogether due to the incident. Amid rampant accusations, speculation, and a huge financial loss for Collins, its about time his alma mater stepped in to help out a former Tiger.
Recently, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu saw his draft stock fall due to injury concerns. A torn ACL saw Ekpre-Olomu fall from a possible first-round pick to a seventh-round selection by the Cleveland Browns. Aware that the injury would likely cause him to lose draft position, the University of Oregon purchased a “loss of value” insurance policy of $3 million to compensate Ekpre-Olomu for a loss in draft position. Even though there is about a $10 million difference between his projected first-round slot and his seventh-round placing, Oregon’s insurance policy allows Ekpre-Olomu to be somewhat compensated, and supported as he recovers from injury and adjusts to the NFL.
The precedent for an insurance policy grew from Texas A&M using NCAA Student Assistance funds to compensate players. Last season, A&M paid around $55,000 in injury insurance to tackle Cedric Ogbuehi to convince him to stay for his final year at the school, and not enter the NFL Draft. According to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) office, all of its members paid $350,000 to the NCAA Student Assistance Fund for the 2013 school year, Fox Sports noted.
If Collins is ultimately cleared from the case, and does sign with a team, LSU ought to spend some its Student Assistance money to help compensate Collins for his loss in draft stock. Signing as an undrafted player would mean Collins could make no more than the league minimum (around $420,000), plus a signing bonus of around $75,000. Considering Collins was set to make around $8.5 million as a first-round pick, the league minimum is nowhere near his true worth.
The compensation would not only be a publicity dream scenario, but it could present LSU as a more attractive destination for high school football recruits. Though the school is already one of the top football programs in the nation, this act would allow potential recruits to see that the school looks after its players, and uses its own money to do so. With LSU having to compete with programs such as Alabama, Florida, and Auburn, showing a high regard for players who lose out in unfortunate circumstances would go a long way to luring high-level recruits away from its rivals.
What began as an unfortunate situation for Collins could ultimately turn out to be an image-boosting marketing ploy by LSU, both supporting a former Tiger in a time of need and boosting its stock for future recruits.