University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar, who yesterday was given his choice to play for either of two National Football League teams by Commissioner Pete Rozelle, today almost certainly will announce that he will play for the Cleveland Browns.
Soon after Rozelle announced that Kosar could choose between the league's regular draft April 30, in which the Minnesota Vikings have the top available choice, or a supplemental draft, in which the Browns have the top pick, Kosar scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference today in the Hurricanes' athletic center.
Although Kosar could not be reached for comment, Dr. John Geletka, a family friend who is acting as his agent, indicated the supplemental draft -- and the Browns -- are his choice.
"I still think he basically feels the same," Geletka said of Kosar, a 21-year-old junior-to-be who previously said he would like to play close to his hometown of Youngstown, 66 miles southeast of Cleveland.
"I think he has a Cleveland preference."
The Browns, behind the shrewd manuevering of owner Art Modell, traded for the Buffalo Bills' first pick in a possible supplemental draft just hours before the Vikings traded with the Houston Oilers for the second pick overall in the regular draft two weeks ago. (Buffalo, which picks first, already has signed Virginia Tech's Bruce Smith.)
The NFL holds a supplemental draft only under unusual circumstances, for example, when Dave Wilson, the University of Illinois quarterback, was ruled ineligible for college play after the NFL draft in 1981. He was picked by New Orleans in a supplemental draft that year.
The Oilers and Vikings maintained that Kosar's situation was not one of those unusual circumstances, that he in fact had made himself ineligible for his remaining two years of college football -- and eligible for the April 30 draft -- when he declared he wanted to turn pro and obtained an agent.
This became a key issue in the tug-of-war over Kosar, an affair so muddled it took Rozelle a week to settle after a meeting with representatives of all four teams. The NCAA only will rule on Kosar's eligibility if he tries to play for Miami again, an NCAA spokesperson has said, so it remained mum.
In a prepared statement released yesterday, Rozelle said he did not "feel it was appropriate for the NFL commissioner to make a definitive determination of Kosar's collegiate eligibility status, as Minnesota had requested."
Meanwhile, the Browns' position was that the supplemental draft was tailor-made for the Kosar affair, following league rules that say if a player has college eligibility remaining, he may opt for either draft. Kosar becomes eligible for a supplemental draft, which probably will take place sometime between June 1 and July 15, Geletka said, if he does not notify the NFL in a letter postmarked by midnight Thursday that he is going to enter the regular draft.
Geletka yesterday said a decision had been made and the six-week controversy that began with as many as eight NFL teams showing interest in trading with the Oilers was finally over.
"I think (Oilers General Manager) Ladd Herzeg comes out a loser and (Vikings General Manager) Mike Lynn comes out a bigger loser," Geletka said. "Ladd Herzeg has been playing Jesse James the last month. He's tried to hold up the entire league."
But the Oilers, who were hoping to keep Kosar out of the AFC Central by trading their pick to Minnesota, may have one shot left. They said they have hired a law firm to investigate the team's options now that Rozelle has ruled against them. Although Herzeg would not comment on Rozelle's decision, he said Monday that the supplemental draft was not intended for situations like Kosar's.
"This has never happened that someone decides to go in a supplemental draft before the regular draft," Herzeg said. "The NFL draft is the cornerstone of this league. The supplemental draft is something special."
But Modell and the Browns found a loophole in the rules, and now, apparently, have their man. Kosar, a gangly quarterback who led the Hurricanes to the 1983 national championship as a redshirted freshman, will graduate ahead of his class this summer with a business degree, provided he passes his spring and summer courses. The distractions haven't made that any easier. His news conference shares billing with two midterm exams today.