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Old 02-05-2004, 01:42 PM   #1
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NFL Age Eligability Rule declared a violation of Anti-Trust Laws

NEW YORK -- Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett was ruled eligible for the NFL draft Thursday by a federal judge who concluded that the league's rule violates antitrust laws.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the NFL to let Clarett enter April's draft, a decision that could clear the way for others. The league will appeal.

Clarett, 20, played only one season at Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship. He was barred from playing in the 2003 season for accepting improper benefits from a family friend and then lying about it to investigators.

Clarett sued the NFL last summer to challenge the league rule that a player must be out of high school three years for draft eligibility. Thursday's ruling, if not successfully appealed, could allow teenage football stars to turn pro the way younger athletes in other sports can, such as LeBron James in the NBA.

No other player has challenged the 1990 NFL eligibility rule. It was adopted because the league's coaches and executives think younger players aren't physically ready for the NFL, although the 6-foot, 230-pound Clarett could be an exception.

Alan Milstein, a lawyer for Clarett, called Thursday's decision "a total victory" and said Clarett was "thrilled." Clarett was traveling to New York for a news conference later Thursday, Milstein said.

The NFL promised to appeal, saying in a statement: "We believe today's ruling is inconsistent in numerous respects with well-established labor and antitrust law."

It added, "We fully expect our eligibility rule to be upheld when this case is concluded."

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said Thursday that the university will continue to seek eligibility for Clarett.

"Today's ruling concerning Maurice Clarett's eligibility for the NFL draft has not changed the university's position regarding his role at Ohio State," Geiger said in a statement. "Should Maurice elect to continue his education and football career at Ohio State, we will work with him in the process of seeking his reinstatement with the NCAA for the 2004 season."

During his state of the NFL address two days before the Super Bowl, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the league wouldn't try to reach a settlement with Clarett.

"It's a pretty direct point in terms of what the rule is, and Maurice Clarett's status falls under the rule," Tagliabue said then. "Our system is working. It is easy to identify players who were helped by staying in school and were developing their skills."

The league had argued that Clarett should not be eligible because its rule resulted from a collective bargaining agreement with the players and is immune from antitrust scrutiny. The NFL also argued that its rule is reasonable and that Clarett cannot bring such a lawsuit.

"While, ordinarily, the best offense is a good defense, none of these defenses hold the line," the judge wrote in a 70-page ruling.

She said Clarett could bring the lawsuit because he was fighting a policy that excludes all players in his position from selling their services to the only viable buyer -- the NFL.

"The NFL has not justified Clarett's exclusion by demonstrating that the rule enhances competition. Indeed, Clarett has alleged the very type of injury -- a complete bar to entry into the market for this services -- that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent," she said.

Clarett's lawyers had called the NFL's rule arbitrary and anticompetitive, arguing it robbed players like Clarett of an opportunity to enter the multimillion dollar marketplace.

The lawyers cited a court ruling letting baseball players move among teams, and other court decisions opening up the NBA, NHL and now-defunct USFL to younger players.

Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards as a freshman. Current NFL rules would prevent him from entering the draft until 2005.

The court ruling comes a day after Ohio State said it is investigating an report that a benefactor of Clarett's was gambling while in daily contact with the star running back.

Geiger said Wednesday he was "obviously concerned" about the allegations against Bobby Dellimuti, who calls himself a father figure and friend of the Clarett family.

"We will look into this matter and will support and cooperate with any and all investigations," Geiger said.

On Thursday, Scheindlin said the league's justifications for its rule "boil down to the same basic concern: Younger players are not physically or mentally ready to play in the NFL."

Yet, the judge said, less restrictive alternatives are available, such as testing each player's physical and psychological maturity.

"Age is obviously a poor proxy for NFL-readiness, as is restriction based solely on height or weight," she said.

Scheindlin suggested NFL maturity tests could provide valuable information to teams deciding on draft selections.

"In such a scenario, no player would be automatically excluded from the market and each team could decide what level of risk it is willing to tolerate," she wrote.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Old 02-05-2004, 03:01 PM   #2
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good, maybe i can try out now

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Old 02-05-2004, 03:19 PM   #3
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I say Go For It!
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Old 02-05-2004, 04:33 PM   #4
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only if we could get a talent eligibility rule declared a violation
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Old 02-07-2004, 12:31 AM   #5
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I wonder if they'll consider a 52-year old who, in his early years, had two potential football scholarships that HE turned down due to a LOVE at home...

"please don't leave me, you'll find another!!!"

(I shoulda left!) prove my worth, I have cleat marks from Sam "the Bam" Cunningham on my chest from 1968....North Torrance vs. Santa Barbara HS, CIF- playoffs......
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Old 02-07-2004, 05:56 PM   #6
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I say "boooooooOOOO!"
I like the NFL the way it is. Besides, the Bears have enough players who can't play...why do they need more young bad players. I really don't like Clarett. He's a slimeball. I hope some Defensive end/Linebacker crushes him good in his first game.
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Old 02-07-2004, 06:05 PM   #7
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can you say lawrence phillips part II
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Old 02-10-2004, 01:06 AM   #8
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Bad move on the part of the SCJ. This paves the way for players to come in straight out of high school now, which could cause a whole lot of complications down the road.

This guy gets kicked off his University team for accepting "improper benefits" (read: endorsements, bribes, etc.), lies about it to investigators, decides to be a whiny bitch about it, and gets into the NFL scot-free, without having to do all the work that the "real" players do.

Ludicrous. Like Chizip said, I hope some linebacker plows him his first play.

By the way, no college education...good idea, now you're totally fucked if you blow a knee!

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