The problem of underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft in increasingly alarming numbers might continue to elude a solution, but at least part of the answer might have been discovered by the Texas A&M athletic administration.
Aggies offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, a projected first-round draft pick had he turned pro early, was in part swayed to stay in school for his senior season by a rule allowing Texas A&M to pay for his loss-of-value insurance policy. In fact, according to FOXSports.com, Ogbuehi said he likely would have entered the 2014 NFL Draft had the Aggies not paid more than $50,000 for the policy that protects him financially from an injury- or illness-related slip in the draft.
And believe it or not, it's perfectly legal in the eyes of the NCAA.
The NCAA allows for what is known as a Student Assistance Fund, under which institutions can help student athletes with various forms of financial need. The fund itself is nothing new -- when a tornado ravaged Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2011, for instance, Alabama was able to help some of its displaced student-athletes with its fund -- but Texas A&M's use of the fund in Ogbuehi's case is most definitely new territory for its application.
"I don't think many schools know about it," said Aggies associate athletic director Justin Moore. "It's a game-changer."
Ogbuehi most definitely had every other reason to leave early. After the Aggies' win over Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Ogbuehi confirmed that he received a first-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Potentially, he could have joined fellow Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews to make two first-round picks at the same position from the Aggies' vaunted offensive line. Instead, he chose to stay in school, and will switch from right tackle to Matthews' former position of left tackle.
"That's a lot of money," Ogbuehi said. "This really helped with my decision. It opened up a lot of doors to staying."
Don't look for the Student Assistance Fund to be a stop-gap for droves of underclassmen declaring early eligibility, however. The fund isn't bottomless ($350,000 per school in the SEC last year, according to the report), and it's intended to assist all student-athletes. As such, it wouldn't take many football insurance policies to exhaust the reserve to the detriment of a school's other athletes.
In other words, what was a great answer for Ogbuehi probably won't amount to a great answer for a larger issue across college football.