I’ve written a couple of times previously – here and here – about Clemson football recruit Bubba Chandler’s upcoming decision if the various MLB Mock Drafts are even close to being true.

Typically, there’s some pushback on these, mainly from Clemson fans sharing their thoughts about missing out on the college experience in general and the Clemson experience specifically.

While most of us theoretically faced a choice coming out of high school – go to college or get a job – Chandler’s options appear to be the reverse of your typical high schooler, at least those that don’t have elite athletic talent.

We go to college for many reasons, one being to better position us to earn a living when we’re done.  Yes, there are ancillary benefits like learning to live on your own, growing socially, learning to be responsible and so forth and look, I made friends that I’m still friends with 143 years later and had experiences I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t trade my Clemson experience for anything, except my wife and kid.

But when you get down to the core reason the vast majority of people go to college it’s to begin learning the skill that’s going to pay the bills and put food on the table and enable you to be a productive member of society.  It just so happens that Chandler already possesses such a skill, one an organization is apparently willing to take a multimillion dollar chance on.

When it comes down to it, I didn’t go to Clemson for the experiences I soaked up along College Avenue or in Death Valley.  I went to Clemson to be educated so I could make a good living and provide for those I love and be able to enjoy life along the way.  That said, those experiences were an incredible part of growing and maturing (theoretically) and making lifetime memories.  So I get it.  Hell, I lived it.

There are some that say “baseball will always be there”.  That’s not necessarily true, especially as a prospective professional athlete, as injury, below expected performance or a different evaluation three years from now could cost someone in Chandler’s position millions of dollars. Literally.

What’ll always be there is Clemson.  Maybe not as a scholarship football player, but who knows?  There’s multiple examples of guys going off to play baseball and then coming back to school to play quarterback, Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden among them.

Now I’ll ask the reverse.  Think of a guy who opted for football (especially as a backup) and then went on to make the highest level in baseball.  I’ll hang up and wait.  

This is not to take away anything from what Clemson has to offer, either as an athlete or as a young person in general.  Many of us would give up a lot to be a member of the Clemson football team, but let’s face it – no one is offering us $3.48 million not to, so it’s an easy thing to say, “I’d go be the backup quarterback in heartbeat.”

Dream with me for a minute. You’re an electrical engineer and you’re such a wunderkind engineer, estimated to be on of the top 18 engineers in the world, and one of the top companies in the world says they’d like to hire you right out of high school and give you a $3.4 million dollar bonus if you skipped college and started working right now or you could go play football at Clemson with no guarantee that money will be there in 3 years.  What choice would you make?

I once had a friend in a similar position as Chandler.  He was the 19th overall pick.  The difference is the money wasn’t life changing back in the day.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a good sum, say 4 or 5 years worth of salary at the time, but Chandler’s estimated haul would be more like 34 times an annual salary assuming an average of $100,000 per year.  

Too little you say? Fine, say he’ll average $150,000 a year in the “real world”.  That’s still 23.2 years worth of work.

Estimated Signing Bonus Estimated Yearly Salary Years of Estimated Salary
$3,481,300 $100,000 34.8
$3,481,300 $150,000 23.2
$3,481,300 $200,000 17.4

He’d have to work over 20 years at an average salary of $150,000 per year to equal what he could get by signing his name.  

He doesn’t have to make the majors.  He doesn’t even have to get out of Rookie League ball. He just has to sign.

By now you think it’s obvious which way I would go in a similar situation, and you’re probably right.  I’ve spent years working jobs from painting houses to director at a national healthcare organization to running my own business.  I hated some, loved others and am likely jaded at this point in life, so what I’d do is irrelevant.   

Maybe I like the thought of $3.4 million more than I should and would have ended up in a bad place if given that amount at Chandler’s age.

Chandler faces a fascinating decision later in the month.  There’s no right or wrong answer in my mind, but rather two incredible options.  And who knows – Chandler could stick with Clemson, play 3 years and get drafted even higher when that time comes.  That’s what makes the decision so fascinating.

In the end Bubba Chandler is the only one that has to live with whatever decision is made and the only “right” decision is the one that makes him happy.

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