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Sunday, August 17, 2003

Clarett and NFL Eligibility

George McCormick, a Michigan State law professor, has an open letter in Sunday's New York Times, counseling Ohio State's star running back Maurice Clarett to challenge the NFL's eligibility rules and go pro. McCormick does a good job explaining in clear language why he believes Clarett would win his case against the rule followed by the NFL and its players union that young men must be at least three years removed from graduating high school before they are eligible for a spot on an NFL roster.

McCormick is absolutely correct, in my opinion, that the eligibility rule represents an unlawful restraint of trade under the Sherman Act and that the potential justifications for the restraint (eg the health and welfare of young players) do not rise to the level the law requires.

My gripe with the system is that it is so obviously wrong, and big time college football such an academic farce, but we still have to put one individual, be it Maurice Calrett or someone else in the future, through the ordeal of a trial, media attention, etc. I know that there has to be injury to a person and all that crap to make the case valid. The problem is that the pain of going through that whole procedure, and the resentment that will last, regardless of the outcome, against the person who complains, discourages the making of the challenge in the first place, and the awful system continues on perpetuating itself.

Unfortunately the power structure in big time sports is such that internal reform is extremely unlikely. It will take the courage of a Clarett to right matters.