Option game open to Milanovich


If Scott Milanovich decides to pass on his three-game senior season at Maryland, he has options and precedents in his favor.

There is the NFL's supplemental draft for players with special circumstances.

There is the Canadian Football League for players who don't meet NFL specifications.

Then there are Cris Carter and Darren Mickell. Former college players who had eligibility problems after a supplemental draft had already been held, they entered the NFL via a second supplemental draft.

Carter, a wide receiver at Ohio State, was declared ineligible in the summer of 1987 after it was discovered that he took money from an agent and after the NFL had held a supplemental draft for Oklahoma's Brian Bosworth.

In 1992, Mickell, a defensive end at Florida, was suspended by the school for failing to attend classes, again after the NFL had held its supplemental draft.

Both times, the NFL opened its door -- although somewhat reluctantly in Carter's case -- by conducting a second supplemental draft.

Suspended by the NCAA for eight games this season, Milanovich could opt to go through the same door. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said yesterday that the league will hold this year's supplemental draft before the end of the month. He did not say whether Milanovich would be approved, however.

"The basic rule on underclass eligibility is a player has to be out of high school three years and renounce his remaining eligibility," Aiello said. "And then, if the player misses the regular draft and applies for the supplemental draft, his situation will be evaluated on its merits."

Applications are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, he said. The ultimate decision would be made by commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Last December, Milanovich explored the possibility of entering the league's regular draft. An NFL evaluation committee projected that he would be drafted anywhere from the third round to the seventh. At that point, Milanovich decided to return to College Park for his senior year.

What remains uncertain is how the NFL would view allegations he bet on six college football and basketball games. The NFL takes a strong stand against gambling, and betting on NFL games is prohibited. Art Schlichter, a former Baltimore Colts quarterback, was banned twice from the league for betting on games.

Not everyone who enters the supplemental draft is chosen, either. In 1988, for instance, none of the 17 applicants was drafted.

Should Milanovich apply and be approved, there seems little question he would be chosen. He passed for 2,394 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. A two-year starter, Milanovich ranks first in Maryland career categories for completions (525), completion percentage (.661) and touchdown passes (47).

"We were anticipating him playing his senior year," said Bruce Lemmerman, director of college scouting for the New Orleans Saints, who was reluctant to discuss Milanovich. Still, Lemmerman said Milanovich has "proven he can throw the football."

Another NFL personnel man called Milanovich a productive player, but said the league was generally wary of quarterbacks who come out of systems that produce big numbers -- such as the run-and-shoot.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders held Milanovich's negotiating rights in the CFL a year ago, but relinquished them this season. Unless another team puts him on its negotiation list, he would be free to sign with any CFL team.

Jim Popp, assistant general manager for the Baltimore Stallions, said Milanovich would prove a valuable asset for a CFL team because he also punts (averaging 41.8 yards last year). But Popp said he had no interest in Milanovich at this time.

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