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THE DRAFT RESISTANCE
When the NFL announced last week that it would include Ohio State All-America wide receiver Cris Carter and Pitt running back Charles Gladman in a supplemental draft on Aug. 28, doomsday pronouncements were heard across the land. Carter had been kicked off his team for taking money from an agent. Gladman had been thrown off because he didn't cooperate with an investigation into illegal agent payments. In effect, the NFL was rewarding the two players for their alleged transgressions by letting them skip a year of college. Some alarmed college coaches and officials darkly predicted that intercollegiate football would be harmed beyond repair.
Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was furious. "I have never heard of Pete Rozelle doing anything for the benefit of college football," he said. "This message says to a college player, 'Go ahead and rob, steal, cheat and kill. Then as soon as you are declared ineligible, don't worry, because then you get into the NFL.' " Pitt coach Mike Gottfried said, "This is the start of droves of guys leaving college for the pros."
There were immediate cries for more rules, increased penalties and the stringent monitoring of agents. But Stanford AD Andy Geiger said, "We've got plenty of rules. The problem is that rules only work for those who believe in rules."
As the cases of Carter and Gladman remind us, there are, in fact, many agents (SI Aug. 3, 1987) who don't believe in rules and many players who like to have spending money. Amid all the hysteria about the NFL's seeming approval of agent treachery, however, welcome words of reasoned calm were occasionally heard. Some were voiced by NCAA president Wilford S. Bailey, Auburn's faculty rep, who said, "We have to decide whether the longtime policy of the NFL not to draft undergraduates is enforceable or desirable. Is it right that a superb, highly skilled athlete who is in no way prepared for college work be forced to go through a college farm system?"
Although the NFL is wearing the black hat in the Carter-Gladman affair, league officials said—correctly—that they had no choice. The NFL is not an enforcement arm of the NCAA, and if a player violates NCAA regulations and loses his amateur standing, then how can the NFL deny him an employment opportunity? According to NFL lawyers, if the league were to keep any player out of the draft, it almost certainly would be ruled in violation of antitrust laws.
Will the drafting of undergraduates ruin the college game? Probably not. College basketball certainly wasn't ruined after former University of Detroit star Spencer Haywood's successful 1971 lawsuit challenging the NBA prohibition against drafting undergraduates. The only rules governing the NBA draft now are that a player's high school class must have graduated and that a player must let the NBA know 45 days in advance that he wants to be in the draft pool. Says NBA commissioner David Stern, "Our way is direct, and it's not hypocritical." Since 1971, 114 college basketball players have been drafted by the NBA before their senior years. Some of them are big names—Michael Jordan, Akeem Olajuwon, Magic Johnson—but the college game has prospered, even though the loss of one star player is far more devastating to a basketball team than the loss of any one player would be to a football team. In addition, it's easier for a player to make an immediate impact in the NBA than in the NFL. For this reason, Boston College football coach Jack Bicknell was probably right when he said, in the wake of the NFL's announcement, "I don't think the floodgates will open."
Unfortunately, the message coming out of the supplemental draft of Carter and Gladman is that crime does pay. Still, if their actions pave the way for the NFL to adopt a similar draft policy to that of the NBA, Carter and Gladman may have done everyone a service.
On the day before this month's Edwin Rosario-Juan Nazario WBA lightweight championship fight in Chicago—Rosario won on an eighth-round knockout to retain his title—a story appeared in the Chicago Tribune by the newspaper's boxing writer, Sam Smith, claiming that Don King, the promoter of the upcoming bout, and his son Carl, a fight manager, habitually take advantage of fighters. Among the charges: Boxers managed by Carl receive low purses because they cannot fight for any promoter other than Don and thus do not benefit from what should be the adversarial relationship between manager and promoter; also, these boxers have 50% of their purses deducted as Carl's cut—and sometimes another 25% for "expenses."