Hansen hopes NCAA will show leniency

4/20/2004 - USC Trojans

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen hopes the NCAA will show leniency and allow Mike Williams to return to Southern California if that's what the star receiver wants.

A federal appeals court on Monday ruled Williams can't enter
this weekend's NFL draft.

Trojans coach Pete Carroll has said he'd like to have Williams
back. But the NCAA makes the final decision. The governing body has
said players who hired agents could be reinstated if a school
petitions for it and the athlete meets academic standards.

On Monday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold a
lower-court decision allowing former Ohio State star Maurice
Clarett and other underclassmen or high school players to be part
of the NFL draft. Clarett filed an emergency appeal with the U.S.
Supreme Court on Tuesday, trying to force his way into the draft.

Williams, a sophomore All-America, filed a lawsuit in federal
court in Manhattan on Monday, saying the NFL issued conflicting
statements about eligibility for the draft, thus causing him to
sacrifice his college career.

"We would hope that the NCAA would rule favorably, because Mike
and anyone else acted based upon the ruling of the court, and now
that the court's reversed it and that opportunity is no longer
available, it doesn't seem to me that he should be penalized for
acting upon the best available information," Hansen told The
Associated Press on Tuesday.

"The NCAA has become in the last few years much more inclined
to assist a student-athlete who through no fault of himself or
herself has become ineligible. They've done a lot more to look at
the situation on an individual basis, which is good."

Williams was projected as a high first-round pick, while Clarett
might not have been taken until the second or third round.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Williams had two years of eligibility
remaining for the defending national champion Trojans. He said
after USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl he planned to stay in
school, but then came the Clarett ruling.

Although Clarett never announced he hired an agent, there have
been reports he did. He was never cleared by Ohio State or the NCAA
to play after being suspended last year for accepting money from a
family friend and for lying about it to NCAA and university

Williams caught 95 passes for 1,314 yards and a school-record 16
touchdowns as the Trojans (12-1) won The Associated Press national

As a freshman, he caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 13 TDs
from Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer in 2002.

"He is really uniquely positioned," Hansen said of Williams.

Hansen believes it is in the best interest of college football
not to allow players to leave for the NFL until they're three years
out of high school, which is the NFL rule upheld by the court. The
argument is that younger players are not physically ready for pro

"It gives more stability to the colleges, and I don't think
they're ready to play," Hansen said. "The biggest, strongest kids
would be manhandled. I want kids to get a college degree. You never
know when your next play is your last play."

If an emergency appeal doesn't allow Williams and Clarett to
enter the draft this weekend, a court could rule later that the NFL
is compelled to include them in a supplemental draft. Former stars
such as Reggie White, Cris Carter and Bernie Kosar all moved into
the NFL after being taken in supplemental drafts.