Ed Driscoll

"ONE SCREWY JUDGE": Skip Bayless

“ONE SCREWY JUDGE”: Skip Bayless writes on Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, who sued to be allowed to enter the NFL draft before he had been out of high school for the required three years, and has been granted just that by Judge Shira Scheindlin:

Scheindlin wouldn’t even waste time and taxpayers’ money on a full trial. She all but laughed at what a blatant violation of antitrust laws the NFL draft policy is and all but told the NFL to forget about appealing because it had no chance.

Maybe I’m as “screwy” as Scheindlin, but that’s what I’ve written for 30 years. Forcing gifted football players to risk their bodies and NFL earning power playing college football without pay has for decades been the biggest injustice in sports. How this system has beaten the legal system this long has been even more extraordinary than 41-year-old Jerry Rice’s longevity.

What an un-American racket pro and college football have gotten away with since pro football became America’s favorite game. All it took to bring it crashing down was one kid just screwy enough to challenge it in court. It doesn’t take a judge or lawyer to see that it should have no chance on appeal.

All you need to know is that baseball has always drafted players out of high school and that in 1971 Spencer Haywood opened the legal door for high school players to enter the NBA draft. But until now no teenager has dared to take on the NFL in court and to risk becoming a marked man on campus, on draft day and on an NFL field.

So the NFL has long benefited from a sensational minor league system for which it pays not a penny. What better way to prepare a young man for pro football than by having him play in nationally televised college games before huge crowds against the country’s best young players? And what a sweet deal for the NCAA, which can make hundreds of millions in TV revenue while merely having to feed and house its stars.

For pro and college football it has been: I’ll fill your vault if you’ll fill mine.

The lone losers were the 18- to 21-year-old players who wrecked knees or necks for Dear Old U. Many aren’t quite physically mature enough for the NFL. Yet many ruin their pro careers, or at least take years off them, while being forced to play the equally violent game of college football.

Just as last season began with the Lions’ controversial hiring of Steve Mariucci as head coach, it looks like this year’s football season is starting early as well—-and just as controversially.