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Clarett May get to play with the Big Boys.


Clarett May get to play with the Big Boys.

February 5, 2004
Clarett Ruled Eligible For NFL Draft

Mark Rea
BuckeyeSports.com Managing Editor

Maurice Clarett
Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett was ruled eligible for the National Football League draft early Thursday by a federal judge who said that the league's rule violates antitrust laws.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ordered the NFL to allow Clarett to enter this April's draft.

Clarett played just one season at Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship. He was barred from playing in the 2003 season for accepting improper benefits from a family friend and then lying about it to investigators.

Clarett sued the NFL last summer to challenge the league rule that a player must be out of high school three years for draft eligibility. Thursday's ruling, if not successfully appealed, could allow teenage football stars to take advantage of the marketing and business opportunities available to young athletes in other sports.

The league had argued that Clarett should not be eligible because its rule resulted from a collective bargaining agreement with the players and is immune from antitrust scrutiny. The NFL also argued that its rule is reasonable and that Clarett cannot bring such a lawsuit.

"While, ordinarily, the best offense is a good defense, none of these defenses hold the line," the judge wrote in a 70-page ruling.

She said Clarett could bring the lawsuit because he was fighting a policy that excludes all players in his position from selling their services to the only viable buyer – the NFL.

"The NFL has not justified Clarett's exclusion by demonstrating that the rule enhances competition," Scheidlin wrote. "Indeed, Clarett has alleged the very type of injury – a complete bar to entry into the market for this services – that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent."

Clarett has stated that he may apply for reinstatement at Ohio State no matter the outcome of the ruling. However, that reinstatement was put in jeopardy Wednesday after an ESPN report linked the suspended running back with Robert Dellimuti, the man from whom Clarett received improper benefits that led to his suspension.

Cell phone records acquired by ESPN.com showed that Dellimuti made 27 calls during the Buckeyes' national championship season to a prominent sportsbook in Costa Rica, SBG Global. Ten of those calls were made in the three weeks leading up to the Fiesta Bowl victory against Miami. The records do not show what type of gambling activity took place, including whether Dellimuti was betting on Ohio State games.

There was no immediate comment from the NFL, but the league is expect to appeal the ruling.

We will update this story as we receive more information.
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