Boris v. United States Football League

1984-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶66,012 (1984)

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Boris v. United States Football League

United States District Court for the Central District of California
1984-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶66,012 (1984)

Facts

Robert E. Boris (plaintiff) played football for the University of Arizona (UA) in the 1980–1981 seasons and for the first three games of the 1982 season before withdrawing from UA without graduating. Upon withdrawing from UA, Boris retained agents, which made him ineligible to resume playing college football. The United States Football League (USFL) (defendant) was a new professional football league that launched in 1983. The Arizona Wranglers (club) (defendant) was a member of the USFL. Pursuant to the USFL’s territorial-schools rule (territorial rule), the club had the exclusive right to select up to five newly eligible players who had played for UA in the USFL’s annual draft. A player became eligible under the USFL’s eligibility rule if either (1) he fully utilized his college-football eligibility under college football’s rules; (2) at least five years had elapsed since he first entered a qualifying college, university, or junior college; or (3) he graduated from a qualifying college or university. Taken together, the territorial and eligibility rules meant that only the club could draft Boris to play in the USFL and that it could not do so until the USFL’s January 1985 draft. However, in February and May 1983, Boris’s agents tried, without success, to get a USFL team to sign Boris or give him a tryout. Moreover, at least until November 1983, the club refused to waive or transfer its territorial-rule rights regarding Boris. Boris sued the USFL and the club, alleging that the eligibility rule as applied to him was a group boycott in violation of federal antitrust law and that the territorial rule also violated antitrust law. The USFL and the club defended the eligibility rule, arguing that it (1) fostered competitive balance, (2) promoted the importance of a college education, and (3) saved the USFL from having to develop college-age players by strengthening college football. The USFL and the club further argued that few college-age players were ready for professional football and that the USFL had to adopt the same eligibility rules as its competition (the National Football League and the Canadian Football League) in order to survive. Boris responded that the USFL’s main impetus for adopting the eligibility rule was to mollify college football programs in order to facilitate the USFL and its members’ access to such programs and their players. Boris moved for partial summary judgment with respect to his claims that the eligibility and territorial rules violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Waters, J.)

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