This ruling, made by Judge Shira
A. Scheinldin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, was
prompted by Maurice Clarett, a 20-year-old sophomore running
back from Ohio State who was suspended last September for accepting
thousands of dollars in extra benefits from a caterer near
his hometown in Ohio, and for attempting to conceal those gifts
from NCAA investigators.
Before Clarett was suspended, he led Ohio State to the 2002
National Championship, and as a freshman, gained 1,237 yards
and 16 touchdowns,
including the winning touchdown in the 31-24 overtime victory
at the Fiesta Bowl.
After being suspended, he sought entry to the NFL but ran afoul
of the rule that a player must be out of high school three years
to be eligible for the draft. Two weeks after being suspended,
Clarett sued the NFL, challenging the rule. His lawsuit argued
that the NFL is forcing players who are talented enough to play
in the NFL to forgo an income while risking a career-ending college
The NFL responded by saying that the rule, which was put in place
in 1993, is meant to prevent young athletes now entering the
league before they are mentally and physically mature enough
to handle themselves in one of the most physically demanding
Judge Scheinldin didn’t agree with the NFL and on Feb.
5 declared Clarett eligible for the NFL. Hours after the ruling,
the NFL announced it would open the draft to all players, college
and high school.
The NFL is expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court
Appeals for the second Circuit, based in New York. If the ruling
is not upheld, the NFL and all levels of football will change
But why are we changing the rules for somebody who couldn’t
stay within the rules of college football? Even though Clarett
will receive a heavy load of punishment from his soon to be defensive
counterparts in the NFL, he hasn’t learned anything. He’s
learned that if he get caught breaking the rules, he’ll
can challenge another rule. If Clarett did not get the rule change,
he would be eligible for the 2005 NFL draft, which would give
him a possible chance of returning to the Buckeyes backfield
to increase his draft day odds.
The NFL distinguished its self from other professional sports
leagues by not letting youngsters onto the field of competition.
This is what made the NFL unique. Now it’s going to lose
its uniqueness and be put on the same level as Major League Baseball,
the National Basketball Association, and all other sports that
allow teenagers to play.
Giving underclassman an option of playing college ball or making
money at the professional level will create a ripple affect across
sports, that will effect how colleges structure their football
This will trickle down to the high school level as well, because
we will soon see pro scouts attending high school games trying
to convince teenagers that passing on college for a pro career
is a good idea.
Even though Clarett may be ready to take on a 300 pound defensive
lineman who lives to put imprints of running backs into the turf,
most high school athletes are not ready.
The NFL is different from the NBA, a league that is thriving
off of its young guns. Football is a more physically demanding
sport; it’s a hitting sport, than basketball, a contact
sport. The NFL established this rule in for a reason: league
officials know how demanding this sport can be, not a judge who
has never played in the NFL and is basing her decision on a book.
Yes, a player’s career in the NFL might be shortened, but
the NFL will keep its level of intensity and the respect it gets
from not letting youngsters roam the field. In addition, high
school athletes are not physically or mentally ready to be pounded
day in and day out.
It might be awhile before we do see a high school athlete make
the jump from playing on Fridays to playing on Sundays, but before
we know it, there will be that high school phenomenon who will
try to become the LeBron James of the NFL. Even if the NFL isn’t