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Saturday, May 01, 2004 

School's Out

In the wake of the NFL Draft, it's interesting to contemplate the impact of the Maurice Clarett court decisions. Gene Upshaw's remark about 18-year-olds being able to do a lot of things but "they're not getting hit by Ray Lewis" is the heart of the NFL's case, and so far it appears the courts approve the notion that the NFL, as a private entity, can choose to bar certain individuals from their draft.

In contrast, look at the NBA. The recent flood of High School players and early draftees has led to several young superstars (Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, LeBron James) but has arguably weakened the quality of the league by devaluing the benefits of playing 4 years in college. As one example, look at Ryan Gomes from Providence College. He's a junior who's testing the NBA draft waters. He's also a first team All-American, so you would think he would be easily selected in the first round, right? No way. Because of the High School players, freshman and sophmore college players, and an influx of international players who have signed up for the draft, Gomes may end up pulling his name out of the draft rather than risk being selected at the bottom of the first round - if not in the second round, with no 3 year guaranteed contract.

The NFL draft is the most anticipated sports draft in this country because most of the players are recognizable and the feeling among fans that the draft means something. The players selected in the first few rounds are expected in step in and play, not sit on the bench and wait for the NFL Europe season. In contrast, the NBA draft is drifting towards the MLB and NHL drafts that are all about drafting teenagers with "upside" instead of young men ready to contribute on the field.

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