Among the “big four” North American professional sports leagues, the NFL is the only one that doesn’t have minor league affiliates for its teams.
The current system is simple. Players who shine at the NCAA can get drafted into the NFL or sign as undrafted free agents. NFL teams will then decide if they want to keep those players on their 53-man rosters or not.
The NBA has the G League. NHL teams have the American Hockey League (AHL) as well as the East Coast Hockey League. MLB teams have Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A affiliates to develop their players.
There is no minor league system for the NFL, but two prominent Notre Dame administrators are hoping that this will eventually change.
In an op-ed that was published in the New York Times, Notre Dame president John Jenkins and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick called for the NFL to also introduce its own minor league system:
“The N.F.L. offers no alternative to intercollegiate football until a player has been out of high school for at least three years. Both policies push talented young players to enroll in college regardless of whether they have any interest in the educational experience it offers.
To ensure that players arrive at college only after making an informed choice — and a real commitment to learning — we urge the N.F.L. to establish a minor league alternative for young players. Similarly, we hope that the N.B.A. and its Players’ Union, in accord with the 2018 Commission on College Basketball, use the upcoming contract negotiations to eliminate the “one and done” rule and allow 18-year-olds to proceed directly to the league.”
This is much easier said than done, of course, and there are zero indicators that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners are even content on the idea of using minor league systems.
NFL clubs have giant rosters with 53 players, not to mention their practice squads. It’s not like the NHL, NBA or MLB where teams often have to recall players from the minors because of injuries to regular players.
Regarding non-NFL affiliated American Football leagues, the United States Football League and the XFL relaunched in 2022 and this past February, respectively. Perhaps one day, the NFL will consider partnerships with one or both leagues.WANT MORE FROM TOTALPROSPORTS? FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE NEWS.