Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is skipping the Sun Bowl because he wants to get a head start in his NFL draft preparations.

Associated Press file

Christian McCaffrey can do what he wants and doesn’t need my permission to walk away from his Stanford University football team’s Sun Bowl game vs. North Carolina.

But I still think it stinks.

Either you are a member of the team or you aren’t.

And the idea that he is doing this to get a head start on his “draft prep” is hogwash. The NFL draft starts April 27, more than four months away. Surely the 10 days he would lose by continuing to participate in the Sun Bowl would not cause him to drop a round or two.

Sure there is an injury risk. There is an injury risk when I walk across a busy street. Has there been an epidemic of injuries in minor bowl games that has ruined hundreds of athletes’ once-promising professional careers? Nope.

And what constitutes a minor bowl game anyway? Would McCaffrey have played if Stanford was in the four-team playoff? Absolutely? How about the Rose Bowl? He likely would play. After that the lines get fuzzy. Would he have played if Stanford instead of Utah was the Pac-12 Conference representative in the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, just a couple of freeway exits from the Stanford campus? My guess is that it would be hard for him to pull out of that one, too.

So it’s not just a cut-and-dried business decision. McCaffrey is not saying no to all bowl games. Just the one in El Paso. Which could make the difference between Stanford have a 10-win season.

I think it stinks. Either you are a member of the team or you aren’t.

Are there too many bowl games? Well, it depends on who you talk to. Yes the roster has ballooned to more than 40 and more and more mediocre teams are participating. But who cares? Who loses because Appalachian State played Toledo in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama?

• The town and region get a few tourists coming to town

• The players get to play another game and travel to a different part of the country

• Coaches love the fact that a bowl game gives them an extra few weeks of practice that non-bowl teams don’t get. And potential recruits can watch your team play.

• ESPN gets something to put on the air in a dead season

• Colleges use the bowl traveling party plane and parties at the bowl site as a way to reward alumni and boosters

It’s a coincidence that the Sun Bowl, which McCaffrey has spurned, is the one bowl I have attended. El Paso loves it. You get treated like royalty. Everybody seems to have a good time. And the Sun Bowl, which first was played in 1935, is tied with the Sugar and Orange for the oldest bowls games (behind the Rose).

And what if you bought tickets for that game once it was announced that Stanford -- and presumably McCaffrey -- would play? You're sucking canal water. Would love to see how low the walk-up sales are for this one on game day.

One final thought: Yes, college athletes are not paid and pro athletes often have short careers. But no one told McCaffrey he had to play pro football. That’s his choice. A four-year education at Stanford costs roughly $250,000. A USA Today story I read calls a scholarship the “bare minimum.” That’s laughable.

And despite a lot of blathering in the blogosphere and elsewhere Stanford is NOT profiting from McCaffrey’s presence at football games. Yes, college athletics produces millions in revenue … but little profit because the schools spend virtually every dime they bring in.

Either you are a member of the team or you aren't. I think it stinks.

Contact reporter James Day at or 541-758-9542. Follow at or



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