With the NFL lacking the benefit of a Collective Bargaining Agreement to provide a shield against antitrust claims both from its current players or from its future ones, the league has become nervous about an eventual legal challenge to the draft, which could come as soon as April 2012.
With Ohio State coach Jim Tressel resigning on Monday, the legal challenge could come even sooner.
As expected, the guys at CFT have been all over the Tressel story, and the most recent post has caught our attention. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who previously shot down rumors that he’d leave the school and enter the supplemental draft, could now opt to exit OSU early, possibly along with other players who will be suspended five games each for selling memorabilia.
Given that the NCAA continues to investigate Pryor, his departure could be, like Tressel’s was, simply a matter of time. Pryor, the biggest name of the bunch, could decide that he doesn’t want to have his first NFL destination determined by a supplemental draft, which may or may not happen in July. (More on that later.) Pryor instead could follow the lead of another former Buckeye — Maurice Clarett — and sue.
Clarett challenged not the draft but the requirement that a player wait until three years after his high school class graduates to try to enter the draft pool. The CBA ultimately helped save the league from having to open its doors to, in theory, high school players.
As to Pryor, it’s admittedly all speculation at this point. But why wouldn’t Pryor take a crack and being able to set up a recruiting tug-o-war like the one in which Tressel and Rich Rodriguez engaged three-plus years ago? (This time around, it wouldn’t be quite the same, given that Pryor hasn’t become nearly as great as Tressel and Rodriguez thought Pryor would be.)
Given that the expired labor deal contemplated only that a 2011 draft would occur and in light of the reality that the supplemental draft represents an initial phase of the next year’s draft, it’s unclear whether the NFL will even entertain the possibility of conducting a supplemental draft in the absence of a new CBA. As NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via e-mail on Monday night, “There have been no applicants. Thus, we have not set a date for a supplemental draft.”
After I pointed out in response that Tressel’s resignation could result in one or more applicants, Aiello said, “There could be a supplemental draft, yes. But the supplemental draft is not a mechanism for bypassing the regular draft. It’s for players that have left school after the draft, evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”
How the NFL evaluates Pryor’s case could potentially result in Pryor filing a legal case of his own.
If he does, it could be prudent to consider not only the reputation of the federal district court in which he files, but also the appeals court that would review the initial decision. As Tom Brady and company could soon be learning the hard way, a favorable lower court ruling means nothing if the appellate court is the most conservative (and thus most naturally pro-business) in the nation.