The University of Georgia Bulldogs are again college football national champions, having thoroughly decimated the underdog TCU Horned Frogs 65-7.
Beyond the questions about what this means for Big-12 football or whether the Michigan Wolverines would have given Georgia an actual challenge, another nagging question is making the rounds: The age of Georgia’s quarterback Stetson Bennett.
Longtime radio broadcaster Chris “Mad Dog” Russo made a compelling point about the quarter centurion still playing in the NCAA. “I have a major problem with Stetson Bennett, 25 years of age, playing college football,” said Russo. “I can see it for one year. Last year he won. Burrow was 23 going on 24 when he won. But 25 years of age, playing quarterback for Georgia, he should’ve left last year … What is the cut-off date? When do we sit here and watch a college athlete and say ‘you know what? This is ridiculous! … When does that get to be a joke? What is the age? Thirty?’ There’s gotta be an age where this is enough already.”
There are, in fact, four NFL quarterbacks who will be leading their teams into the playoffs who are younger than Bennett.
Granted, Bennett’s is a compelling story. At only 5 feet 11 inches and 185 pounds coming out of high school, the QB’s only FBS scholarship came from Middle Tennessee State University. After being a walk-on at Georgia, he was red-shirted his first year and never took a snap from center. Then he transferred to Jones County Junior College. After one season he returned to Georgia in the backup role until the starting QB’s injury gave him his shot. Bennett won the job as starter and went on to win back-to-back championships.
Get the scriptwriter on the phone!
Still, as cool a story as it is, the fact remains that a 25-year-old played college football in the most important game of the year. Something seems just intuitively wrong about a full-fledged adult playing against 19 and 20-year-old kids. Or at least what used to be considered an adult.
Perhaps Bennett’s situation is emblematic of a larger social phenomenon that seems to be growing not just in this country but the First World: The advent of the perpetual adolescent.
In 1940, only 5.5% of U.S. men and 3.8% of women went on after high school to earn a college degree. As Mark Steyn likes to point out, the United States tackled the Great Depression, won the Second World War, and became not just a global superpower but a hyperpower courtesy of a populace with an average eighth grade education.
Today the percentage of Americans with college degrees is 36.6% men, 39.1% women.
There is meaning in these numbers. Certainly for many, college is a net positive. Especially in the STEM fields where it is an essential for competency in the workplace or as a foundation for graduate schools in professions such as medicine, mathematics, engineering, etc. But for many, college is a waste — as your barista behind the counter who holds a degree in primitive cultures and indentured servitude courtesy of student loans will attest.
For many, the main function of college now seems to be to defer entering adulthood.
An even more telling illustration of this trend towards the extended adolescence is the percentage of Americans who hold advanced degrees. That number is now 13.1%, up from just 8.6% in 2000; the number of Americans with a post-collegiate education has more than doubled from 10.5 million in 2000 to 24.1 million in 2021. 4.7 million of them went even further to earn PhDs.
Such trends toward deferring entering the workforce as long as possible can be seen in the data: The median age of the U.S. labor force, which has risen from 39.6 in 2001 to 41.7 in 2021, is projected to hit 42.6 by 2031.
The phenomenon of the perpetual adolescent will have detrimental impacts down the road, in both social and economic spheres.
The longer one waits to enter the workforce and get on with their adult lives means the longer one waits to get married, start a family, and buy a home — all cornerstones of a stable society. Starting a family later, if at all, means less of a biological window to have children, reducing the number of offspring.
It’s no coincidence that as Americans become more ‘educated’ they are also having fewer children. From 1950 to the present, the U.S. birth rate per 1,000 has been cut in half from 24 to 12.
These numbers are ominous because, while we have opted to have fewer and fewer children, we have also drastically expanded the entitlement and social safety net programs by federal and state governments.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — and a myriad of literally 100 other programs — run on tax dollars. As they grow, they need more taxpayers entering the workforce earlier, and to stay in it longer, to remain solvent. Yet, the exact opposite is taking place. To paraphrase Milton Friedman, you can have a low birth rate or a welfare state, but you cannot have both.
Throw into the mix the average American lifespan has lengthened by two decades since the inception of Social Security due to competent medicine and soon the age pyramid will be inverted. More people demanding more subsidies for a longer span of their lives from fewer workers spending less time in the productive, i.e. tax-yielding, workforce is a mathematical Jenga tower. One that is already teetering.
Math has no ideology. Numbers, not political wishful thinking, will have the ultimate say.
According to the BLS there are currently 10.5 million job openings out there. All one needs to do is drive into a commercial district of any town and you will see “Now Hiring” signs on many storefronts. But it’s hard to go to work when you’re too busy earning that advanced degree in underwater basket weaving, despite being well into your twenties.
So, to compensate, the West looks to the impoverished countries of the world to import the children they are not having to fill the jobs their own entitled Peter Pans won’t take.
To be sure, there are those in their 20s who still live at home solely for economic reasons. They would love nothing more than to get on with their lives and be on their own. But with the average rent for a one-bedroom in Manhattan, for example, approaching $4,000/mo this is problematic.
I freely admit, it was easier from a purely financial standpoint to move into adulthood in 1990 than today. But for many, going to college, then grad school, then pursuing a doctorate is a way to put off the inevitable ‘big person living’ for as long as possible. And the delay is funded by the federal government, offering loans that will place them in bondage for decades to come. This is a socially and economically unsustainable dynamic in the fabric of American life. One that sees no abatement in the near future.
So, we see the eternal children in football stands cheering on the Stetson Bennetts of the world who are still playing games in college at an age at which their grandparents were already well into their adult lives, living in their own homes and working full-time jobs while raising a family.
Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader, musician, and writer whose articles have also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, National Review, The Federalist, Zerohedge, Substack and other news outlets. He is the author of the acclaimed World War II novel Of Another Time And Place. Brad’s newest best-selling novel, The Extraordinary, is about a teen-aged boy on the autism spectrum telling us in his own words how he and his family cope with his war veteran father’s PTSD.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.