There was a post that devolved into a discussion of the of NFL Draft eligibility rules about a week ago. As I was the person who was largely responsible, I decided to examine Maurice Clarett's situation more closely. Enjoy.
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NFL eligibility rules, like those of the NCAA, can be a contentious issue. This is likely because, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with a rule, the rules are somewhat arbitrary. Since we’re discussing Maurice Clarett here, I’m going to discuss the NFL’s policy that players must be three years removed from high school graduation in order to enter the NFL draft—in other words, they must have completed their Redshirt Sophomore or true Junior season in college football. Clarett challenged that rule in federal court in 2004, where he first was successful in the Southern District—whose ruling was then reversed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
I want to emphasize that I am not a lawyer, and while the lawyers out there are free to destroy my argument and pick apart my almost certainly incorrect usage of legal terminology, that doesn’t necessarily mean my viewpoint is without validity. As a reference for the legal issues, I’ve used a summary of the case, which is available at the bottom of the page.
This is a topic I feel very strongly about. To me, it’s appalling that an adult who is highly qualified for a job is prevented from pursuing that job simply based on his age. Make no mistake; waiting three years after high school is essentially another way of requiring that NFL players be 20-21 years old on draft day. Of course, for me to be upset in this case, I must assume that Clarett and Mike Williams would have been drafted (or at least signed as an undrafted free agent) by an NFL team in that draft. Both were drafted the next year, so I think it’s safe to assume they would have been drafted the season in question.
My argument isn't about what’s best for the fans, or even for the players, it’s about what should or shouldn’t be legal. I would love every college player to stay in school for four seasons. I primarily follow the college game, and the game’s great players are a significant part of why the college game is, to me, the best sport in the world. However, is it acceptable for the government to allow a private entity to not allow an adult to work in a profession he is clearly capable of pursuing? I’m not saying the NFL had to draft Clarett and give him a huge signing bonus, but they essentially prevented him from even applying for a job, despite having met all non age-related qualifications. I’m going to examine if my argument is valid, and whether it’s reasonable to disagree with the court decision the allowed the NFL to deny Clarett entrance into the draft.
Clarett’s lawyers argued that the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement violated various anti-trust acts by denying eligibility for employment to players “who had not first exhausted all college football eligibility, graduated from college, or been out of high school for five football seasons. Clubs were further barred from drafting any person who either did not attend college, or attended college but did not play football, unless that person had been out of high school for four football seasons.” The NFL Commissioner was authorized to admit players via “Special Eligibility,” provided three years of college football had elapsed—these are early entrants to the draft.
The initial case in the Southern District essentially ruled that the Clarett had anti-trust standing; holding that the “’inability to compete in the market’ for NFL players' services is sufficient injury for antitrust purposes.” The Southern District also found that the NFL’s eligibility rules were “blatantly anticompetitive” in ruling in Clarett’s favor. The NFL argued that younger players were less emotionally and physically mature, and therefore more likely to fail at the NFL level. They further argued that younger athletes may attempt to rush their body’s maturation by taking steroids, etc. These are logical arguments that I’d expect the NFL to make here.
Obviously, the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Appeals Court disagreed with the lower court's ruling. Their discussion opens by stating, “It has long been recognized that in order to accommodate the collective bargaining process, certain concerted activity among and between labor and employers must be held to be beyond the reach of the antitrust laws.” This allows unions and employers to negotiate work rules together in good faith—the so-called anti-trust exemption. This is called a “non-statutory exemption,” which is inferred "from federal labor statutes, which set forth a national labor policy favoring free and private collective bargaining; which require good-faith bargaining over wages, hours, and working conditions; and which delegate related rulemaking and interpretive authority to the National Labor Relations Board."
The Appeals Court systematically struck down each of Clarett’s arguments based on past court rulings and federal labor law. According to federal labor law, rules for initial eligibility are required in the collective bargaining process, and may make eligibility more difficult for outside parties, which can be used by unions to protect their workers. Unlike the Southern District, the Appeals Court granted the NFL a non-statutory exemption and allowed them to deny Clarett’s entry into the draft.
The discussion above is what happened during the process. Clearly, assuming that the appointed members of the federal court system are accomplished jurists—which is likely the case—intelligent people can disagree here. I found it interesting that age was not mentioned once in the case summary. When Clarett initially challenged the NFL, I thought it would be a simple case that would immediately fall in Clarett’s favor. He was an adult, and it’s illegal to deny someone a job due to age, which I contend is a clear consequence of the time removed from high school eligibility rules. I was wrong. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states on its website that only workers over the age of forty are protected by age discrimination provisions of federal employment law. That is clearly why age wasn’t mentioned, however, I’m surprised that was not challenged, especially due to the perishable nature of NFL level football ability.
I’m not going to delve too deeply into the morality issue in this diary. I obviously fall on the side of allowing an adult to apply for a job he is qualified for, but many others on the board do not in the case of pro football. I also feel it would have been right for the NFL to allow Mike Williams and Maurice Clarett in under some sort of special exemption. They did win the initial case, and were forced to spend a year in limbo waiting to be drafted—which may have contributed to Clarett’s eventual problems. Had he been able to remain in the very structured environment of organized football, those problems may have been mitigated or never appeared.
Feel free to debate below, but apparently, Maurice Clarett, and I, was wrong based on federal law. Hopefully it was an interesting read.
There have been a lot of requests for this to become a recurring feature (as it was on Varsity Blue), so I'll post the rankings weekly in the diaries, and frontpage it occasionally. The team rankings are very rough estimates until the services have released more full individual grades.
Action since last rankings:
3-5-10 Illinois gains commitment from Hunter Wells. Michigan State gains commitment from Lawrence Thomas.
|Big Ten Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# of Commits||Rivals 250||Scout Average||ESPN 150|
I'll only make charts for the teams that currently have commits. Rivals 250 means that a given prospect is on the Rivals 250 to Watch, and ESPN 150 means that a prospect is on the Watch List for the ESPNU 150. Scout ratings are on the 5-star scale.
|#1 Ohio State - 2 Commits|
The Buckeyes start their recruiting class with a couple bigtime defensive ends.
|#2 Minnesota - 2 Commits|
Minnesota has a solid beginning - for now.
|#3 Michigan State - 2 Commits|
The state's top prospect picks the Spartans.
|#4 Michigan - 3 Commits|
Michigan's first three prospects are not super-heralded at this point.
|#5 Illinois - 1 Commit|
Illinois gets a big in-stater to start off the class.
|#6 Northwestern - 1 Commit|
Northwestern holds steady with one prospect.
- Friday 3pm ET – Live stats, CiL Live Blog
Alan Oaks (1-1) vs Matt Harvey (1-0)
- Saturday 2pm ET – Live stats, Live Audio
Matt Miller (0-1) vs Patrick Johnson (1-1)
- Sunday 1pm ET – Live Stats
TBA vs Colin Bates (2-0)
Opponent Record (rank): 7-1 (#13 in CBI's composite poll)
Michigan Record (rank): 4-4 (unranked)
All Time Series: 7-3 (Last game – W 1-0, neutral site, 3/6/2005)
Chapel Hill, NC
This weekend, Michigan takes on the University of North Carolina as an underdog. The Tarheels enter the series ranked as high as #12 in the coaches' and writers' poll. The lowest ranking they have is #20 in the BaseballAmerica poll. They've got a 7-1 record over nobody of importance and a loss to Maine.
UNC is one of the more talented teams Michigan will face this season, coming off a College World Series berth and one of their best teams ever. The good news is they lost the anchors to last years team, including pitcher Alex White and hitter Dustin Ackley, the #15 and #2 overall picks in the last MLB draft. They also lose their second starter and their second and fourth best hitters. This isn't the same Tarheel team.
As such, this year's UNC team has struggled despite their pretty record. Like Michigan, they've had games with big offensive numbers, but decent to good pitching spells trouble. They aren't scoring as few runs as Michigan, but they aren't blowing out the teams they've played. Given their quality, they probably should have. In their loss to an unusually solid Maine pitching staff, the Tarheels managed 11 hits, but scored only 3 runs and stranded 9 base runners.
They sound, not only from the Maine loss but their entire season, like a team reminiscent of Michigan last year. A type of team where a pitching duel would leave them in some hot water. That's exactly what Michigan wants to do this weekend.
Plus, recent history is on our side. In our last game against UNC in 1995, Michigan won in a pitchers duel by a score of 1-0. Michigan registered a game winning double in the top of the 9th to secure an upset of #10 UNC at a tournament in Greenville, NC. [Continued after the jump.]
Not my usual in depth recap as I've been swamped and it was just a midweek game. UNC preview will be out tonight late.
Michigan wins 13-7.
I didn't get a good chance to see the FGCU game as apparently the Atlantic Sun doesn't archive baseball games, but I finally got go through the box score and a couple of newspaper articles on the game and I have to admit I was a little surprised at our hitting.
Michigan jumped jumped out to a 4 run lead on a string of hits from Urban, Biondi, Crank, and Dennis, a sac-fly by Toth, and a wild pitch leading to a run, all in the top of the fourth. Unfortunately, we gave up 4 runs the following half inning to tie. Urban and Biondi again lead off the 5th with a pair of hits to plate on run, and Michigan was aided by a FGCU fielding error that allowed another run.
In the 7th, Michigan exploded with 7 runs on only 4 hits. Dufek and Crank both walked to start off the inning, followed by Lorenz and Berset singles. A balk with a runner on third and two errors on the Eagles later, Michigan had a 6 run inning. Dufek would reach base again that inning on a single to score the 7th run.
In all, the offense mounted 16 hits, 10 RBI, 7 walks, and 7 Ks. Biondi was the leader with a 3-for-6 day with a team high 3 RBI. Nick Urban was perfect at 3-for-3 with 3 runs and one RBI. Both Biondi and Urban both registered their first triples on the night as well.
Pitching was solid enough for the offense the team provided. Brosnahan did give up the 4 runs in the 4th on a grand slam, but he worked through it and into the 5th inning. He finished with 4.1 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 6 BB, and 3K. The walks needs to improve, but it was okay for his first career start. Travis Smith closed the door to finish the 5th and worked a scoreless 6th striking out 2 along the way.
Each of the relievers after that gave up a run. Wood, Clark, and Ballantine each worked on inning. Wood and Clark both had 2 Ks a piece. Not great outings, but they didn't collapse either. I'll take that with a 5+ run lead.
SWFlaBlue's kid in a Mike Hart jersey throws out the first pitch.
The game went well for Michigan, and it's fans in attendance:
Michigan (4-4) pounded out  hits against five FGCU pitchers and used a seventh-inning Eagles breakdown to cruise in front of a fairly large and vocal contingent of Wolverines fans.
It sounds from that article that Michigan got lucky that Chris Sale was saved for a ranked team this weekend. I'll take it. Michigan now sits at 4-4 on the season.
Craig is very involved with Campus Crusade, and Athletes in Action on campus. "He's down in New Orleans right now with those two groups on a mission trip. They're helping out with Katrina, cleaning up, and I believe they're helping build a house," Fred told me. Craig has been there since this past saturday, and Fred expects him back this weekend.
Roh has always been a good student, and always been very motivated to help the community. "He's been involved with a lot of these organizations on campus, and a little more involved with Athletes in Action. He got pretty involved over the summer, he's always been very into his religion, and just always been a good student. He was working last summer with a few mentor type things, too. I know they do a lot of local type services, and this is the first time he's gone out on a trip like this," said Fred.
Spring practice is coming soon, and Craig has also made it a point to stay focused with his improvement on the field as well. "He's up to 255 now. He ended the season at 240, so he's already gained about 15 pounds. The coaches said they want him at 255, or maybe 260. He's had tremendous increases in all his exercises, too. I don't know the exact numbers, by I know he's increased his bench, squat, and everything else,"
Injury seemed to plague a lot of the team this past season, and that included Craig, as well. "He got three stingers throughout the season in his neck, so he couldn't do any upper body stuff. It was really after the Illinois game that he couldn't do any of the upper body workouts during the season. As soon as the season was over, he rehabbed the nerve, and is ready to go. It's hard to activate the muscle the right way with nerve problems, so it was difficult for him during the season. He's good to go now, though," said Fred. "Everyone was concerned about his size last year, and I don't think that will be the case this year."
I've been following along with Brian/Tim's basketball previews and was wondering how accurate the KenPom predictions have been. I'll graph the predictions versus the outcomes, and try to adjust the predictions based on the current rankings (versus rankings at the time). I will also include a "baseline" program for analysis and comparison to our manic/depressive performance this season.
Michigan is currently ranked 85/47offensively/defensively according to KenPom. Compare that to the competition:
|team||current offense rank||current defense rank|
And prediction/results for those games:
|team||kenpom prediction||actual difference||kenpom - actual|
Simple numerical average of (kenpom - actual) gives -0.85, which shows pretty good prediction value.
Showing the results graphically:
The orange line shows how close the kenpom prediction was at the time.
Now, we will look at the current rankings to try to get a better feel for the prediction value. Assuming that a better team will beat a worse team, we will estimate margin of victory based on relative ranking.
|team||rank average||michigan rank - team rank||ranking difference prediction|
The last column is expected margin of victory, if the teams played today. Graphing the RDP versus actual gives this:
The games with big gaps would be upsets, but overall the prediction percentage is .61, that is, the percentage of games that the current rankings would predict correctly, win or lose.
Now let's compare that chart to a control, Michigan State. MSU's rank is 28/31. The data in question:
|team||actual difference||ranking difference prediction|
So what does all this show? I think it shows the value of KenPom's system when used on a good team. Or, conversely, the inconsistency of Michigan this season - beating teams they shouldn't beat, losing to teams they should beat. I'm not a gambler, so I didn't take into account the value of covering against the spread, I'm simply looking at this as a fan and judging based on wins/losses. As far as wins and losses, this system seems very accurate. I may look into tweaking the ranking calculation to better match the results, but I think the basic idea is pretty solid.