College underclassmen won't be entering the National Football League's draft anytime soon.
Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand last May's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that upheld the NFL's right to keep players out of its annual draft until they are at least three years out of high school.
The appeals court had overturned a federal judge's February 2004 ruling that the NFL's policy violated federal antitrust law. The rulings came in a lawsuit brought by Maurice Clarett, a former Ohio State University running back who was barred from the draft in 2004, when he was two years out of high school.
The NFL's policy has been challenged on several occasions during the last two decades. Critics have argued that it unfairly restricts the ability of college football players to make a living, and that the policy serves to force young people whose primary interest is in playing professional football to spend three years playing in college even if they have no interest in being there academically.
Players are allowed to enter the drafts of the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball right out of high school, or to enter those leagues at any point during their college careers.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association supports the NFL rule. When the case was before the Second Circuit appeals court, the association filed a friend of the court brief on the league's behalf -- but took pains to say it was doing so to keep the expectations of players in check, not "to advance the economic interest of the NCAA."