Bloom's days at Colorado apparently over

Updated: August 17, 2004, 11:09 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BOULDER, Colo. -- The NCAA has denied Jeremy Bloom's request to play football at Colorado while accepting endorsements to support his skiing career.

The decision, announced Tuesday, ends Bloom's football career unless the NCAA reverses itself, said university spokeswoman Lindsey Babcock.

Colorado has filed an appeal on the decision, but the setback means the two-sport star will likely have to stick with skiing.

"It's a sad day, I think," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "I think it's a really sad day that the NCAA takes a stand like this and can't be flexible enough and tolerant enough to deal with individual differences. They seem to be situational in some of these things and that's the way it is."

It was not immediately clear when the NCAA would act on the appeal.

Bloom, a world champion freestyle skier, practiced with Colorado the first five days this season before heading to Chile for a camp with the U.S. Ski Team on Sunday. He hoped to return to Boulder if the NCAA ruled in his favor, but will now stay with the ski team.

In a statement released by the university, Bloom said he was "shocked and saddened."

The NCAA rejected a request from Bloom and the university for a waiver of rules that prevent college athletes from accepting endorsement income, the university said Tuesday.

Bloom, a junior receiver and kickoff return specialist, has been battling the NCAA for more than two years over whether he could accept endorsement money as a professional skier and keep his eligibility to play college football.

Bloom tried to sue the NCAA for not letting him accept endorsement money while training for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Saying he could no longer afford to train without financial support, Bloom started accepting money from sponsors last winter and had all but given up hope of playing college football when the Colorado Court of Appeals denied his request for an injunction in May.

In January, Bloom, a 22-year-old world-class freestyle skier, declared he would begin accepting ski-related endorsement revenue needed to fund his training for the 2006 Turin Olympics. In recent weeks there had been renewed optimism around Colorado that the NCAA might allow Bloom to play football again. In reality, the NCAA only wanted more information from Bloom about what he had done with a $45,000 first-place prize he won in the "Superstars" competition a year and a half ago (he donated the money to charity).

He then filed his latest request with the NCAA for a waiver.

Bloom likened his situation to that of former Iowa player Tim Dwight. A 1998 fourth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons, Dwight received a $225,000 signing bonus and was paid $1.4 million for that NFL season. He also earned some $15,000 more in promotional revenue. However, with his football eligibility completed, Dwight was allowed by the NCAA to return to and compete for Iowa's track team. He was reinstated in April 1999 after the NCAA required him to return money he earned from an autograph signing in Iowa City.

Bloom's outlook changed about two weeks ago with a new waiver request that led the NCAA to ask for several more documents from Bloom and the university.

The waiver was believed to be similar to an agreement former Iowa football player Tim Dwight reached with the NCAA in 1999. Dwight played for the Atlanta Falcons during the 1998 NFL season, but was allowed to retain his track eligibility after paying back endorsement money.

The NCAA has said the two cases are different because Dwight stopped receiving endorsement money during the reinstatement process.

Bloom has maintained the only way he can generate enough money to compete is through sponsorships since he does not receive a salary as a professional skier. Under NCAA rules, collegiate athletes are allowed to receive salaries as professionals in other sports but can't receive endorsement money.

"On matters of amateurism, the colleges and universities in the NCAA have made it clear: student-athletes are not permitted to endorse products and retain their eligibility," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for membership services. "Twice Mr. Bloom asked the NCAA whether he could accept endorsements, and twice he was told it was impermissible and would violate NCAA rules. Bloom then pursued options through the Colorado legal system to set aside the NCAA rules. Again, he was told 'No' twice by the courts.

"And still, he entered into contracts to endorse products, in violation of NCAA rules."

Bloom practiced with Colorado the first five days this season before heading to Chile for a camp with the U.S. Ski Team on Sunday. He hoped to return to Boulder if the NCAA ruled in his favor, but will now stay with the ski team.

"I am shocked and saddened by the NCAA's decision," Bloom said in a statement through Colorado's media relations department.

Barnett said he wasn't surprised by the decision, but hopes it will lead to change within the NCAA.

"Probably this will turn everybody's head and they will make a better decision next time, and Jeremy will have been the one who started it," Barnett said. "I think it's too bad that the NCAA misses this opportunity."

The speedy Bloom was expected to have a huge impact on Colorado's program over the next two years.

He was expected to compete for a starting spot this season and has already proven to be a superb kick returner. Bloom is second on Colorado's all-time list with five touchdowns of 75 yards or longer and last year he returned 44 punts for 625 yards and two TDs and returned 24 kickoffs for 589 yards and one TD.

Bloom also caught 24 passes for 458 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN The Magazine senior writer Bruce Feldman was used in this report.

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