NEW YORK (AP) — Maurice Clarett’s bid to jump to the
NFL was blocked yesterday by a federal appeals court that left open
the possibility he could enter a supplemental draft.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold a lower-court
decision to allow the former Ohio State star and other athletes,
like Southern California’s Mike Williams, to enter this
weekend’s draft.

Players are barred from the NFL until three years after high
school graduation under current league rules.

The appeals court said it stayed the earlier ruling to safeguard
the NFL from harm and to ensure a more thorough review. Its final
opinion will probably be issued after the draft, perhaps weeks from
now.

Any potential harm to Clarett would be lessened by the
NFL’s agreement to hold a supplemental draft if the appeals
court later ruled in his favor, the court added.

The ruling came on the same day Williams filed his own lawsuit
in federal court in Manhattan, saying the NFL had issued
conflicting statements about eligibility for the draft, thus
causing him to sacrifice his college career. Williams hired an
agent, which usually means a player cannot return to play in
college.

But Williams’s college coach, Pete Carroll, said it was
possible the wide receiver could return to school.

“We’ll continue to help our guy out, just like we
did when he was making his decision,” Carroll said.
“Nothing definitive has been declared by the NCAA. Some steps
would have to be taken for the players to get back into college
football.”

Although Clarett never announced he hired an agent, there have
been reports that he did. He was never cleared by Ohio State or the
NCAA to play after being suspended last year for accepting money
from a family friend and for lying about it to NCAA and university
investigators.

NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard would not comment specifically on the
Clarett case, but he said players who hire agents could be
reinstated if the school petitions the organization.

“The individual facts of each case ultimately will
determine whether or not an athlete is reinstated,” he
said.

NCAA president Myles Brand said if the NFL ultimately loses the
case that graduation rates for football players could decrease
significantly.

“Not because of the small number that may be eligible to
go to the NFL,” he said. “But rather because of the
literally thousands of wannabes who will give up concentrating on
their studies, both in high school and college, for that
one-in-a-million chance to get in the NFL. And they will be the
losers.”

After more than an hour of arguments, though, the appeals court
said the NFL showed it could win its case.

League lawyer Jeff Pash said simply that the league was
“pleased.” Clarett’s lawyer, Alan Milstein, did
not return telephone messages asking for comment.

Clarett led Ohio State to a national title as a freshman but was
ruled ineligible as a sophomore. Williams declared for the draft
after a lower court ruled in Clarett’s favor.

Seven others also declared for the draft after the initial
ruling, but none is a prospect.

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in February
that Clarett should be allowed in the draft. She said the rule
excluding him violates antitrust law and unjustly blocks a player
from pursuing his livelihood.

If a subsequent ruling makes Clarett eligible, the league could
hold a supplemental draft, something it has done for players who
entered the draft late since 1977, NFL lawyer Gregg A. Levy
said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.