Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders was granted admission to the NFL draft Tuesday, just three days after the Oklahoma State junior running back asked for a special exemption to turn pro.
NFL spokesman Joe Browne said Sanders, a true junior with a year of eligibility left, is being allowed into the April 23 draft because Oklahoma State is on NCAA probation and because he is leaving school with the blessing both of Coach Pat Jones and athletic director Myron Roderick."We've always believe it best for both professional and college football that the NFL's eligibility rules not work to disrupt college programs or players' educational opportunities," Browne said.
"But when an underclassman whose program is under NCAA sanctions decides to turn pro with the full support of his college coach and athletic director and when he has lost any remaining college football eligibility in the process, we have no realistic choice but to accept him."
He is expected to be chosen extremely high - perhaps third by the Detroit Lions, who have expressed a strong intrestest in him.
Asked today it Sanders' admission would set a precedent for other underclassmen to turn pro, Browne replied:
"It's only a precedent if we're faced with another player under similar circumstances. I say that with the NCAA sanctions in mind against Oklahoma State and the statements from Pat Jones and Myron Roderick supporting Sanders' application."