NFL wins arbitration ruling in bounty case

New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma was suspended for his role in a bounty system. The union challenged Roger Goodell's authority on the matter but lost Monday.

NEW YORK — An arbitrator ruled Monday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to discipline New Orleans Saints players for their role in a bounty system.


The NFL Players Association challenged Goodell’s power to impose penalties for what the league says was a three-year bounty program that targeted specific players. Stephen Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, took only five days to determine that Goodell has the power to punish the players under the collective bargaining agreement reached last August to end the lockout.

Goodell suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season and teammate Will Smith for four games. Former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended for eight games, while linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, was docked three games.

Those players have appealed the suspensions. And the players’ union later Monday said it will appeal Burbank’s decision because it believes salary cap violations are involved in the payment. That would give Burbank the authority to rule on penalizing any players involved.

REFEREES: The NFL will start hiring and training possible replacement officials with a deal not yet completed with the NFL Referees Association.

Talks between the league and the officials broke down after two mediation sessions. The two sides had been negotiating since October and have said they expect a new collective bargaining agreement in time for the upcoming season.

But that optimism has disappeared.

A session was held Sunday under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the NFLRA said the league “terminated negotiations” on Monday.

The league said that regional training sessions for replacement officials would begin this month “to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season.”

BIG TEN: Conference administrators would prefer a plus-one system over a four-team playoff to determine a national champion if the BCS can’t be maintained in its current form.

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said conference presidents would choose to keep the current BCS system as is if there was a vote today. But he added change appears to be inevitable. In the plus-one format, the bowl games would be played, and then the top two teams would meet for the title.

“We think that in many respects, (the current system is) as good as you could do, with obviously some changes about automatic qualifying and perhaps how the top two teams are selected,” he said. “But we’re also realistic. That doesn’t seem to be one that has gotten a lot of support, and that some movement is necessary.”

Perlman spoke Monday, a day after presidents and chancellors met at league headquarters in suburban Chicago. As the top conferences negotiate over a playoff system, the Big Ten is showing some flexibility, while remaining adamant that the bowls and its alliance with the Rose Bowl be preserved.