INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA says Mike Williams sent a clear message he no longer wanted to play college football by hiring an agent and dropping out of spring classes.
That's part of the reason Williams' appeal to be reinstated was rejected, Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for membership services, said Friday in defending the decision.
"At the end of the day, when we stepped back and looked, there was no question he violated the amateurism rule," Lennon said. "He said, "I want to be a professional, I no longer want to be a college student-athlete.' "
Vice president Todd Dickey, Southern California legal counsel, said he was more upset that the NCAA strung out the process.
"Basically, they said hiring an agent and declaring for the draft was too much, and they knew that from the beginning," Dickey said.
The All-America receiver from Tampa announced in February he would enter the NFL draft after former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett successfully challenged the NFL rules in court twice. Those ruling opened the door for other underclassmen to turn pro early, but Williams was the only other college player to take advantage of the rulings.
In April, five days before the draft, a federal appeals court issued a stay. On May 24, the appeals court ruled in favor of the NFL, giving it the right to bar players who had been out of high school less than three years.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Williams severed ties with his agent, Mike Azzarelli of Tampa, and enrolled in summer classes at Southern Cal.
But it wasn't enough to sway the NCAA's opinion.
"There were alternatives," Wally Renfro, senior adviser to NCAA president Myles Brand, said in a telephone interview from Washington. "There are things the student-athlete can do. He can seek advice from experts, he can enter his name in the draft. But the timing didn't require Mike to sign with an agent."
Williams would have been one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates this season. Instead, the No. 1-ranked Trojans will open defense of their national title without him.
He could challenge the ruling, but would have to win appeals in two separate committees. Williams and a school attorney said Thursday they would not appeal.
Lennon said one factor committee members considered was when Williams stopped receiving benefits from his agent. He declined to say whether Williams was still receiving benefits after the April appeals court ruling.
Williams' other problem was a new academic rule requiring student-athletes to complete six hours of classwork in the spring to remain eligible in the fall.