IN BRIEF : Judge OKs New Free Agency Setup

<i> From Times wire services </i>

A federal judge in Minneapolis has upheld the NFL’s new system of free agency, which has resulted in more than 100 players’ changing teams since Feb. 1.

U.S. District Judge David S. Doty, who is presiding over the antitrust suit filed by the players’ union after the 24-day strike in 1987, which ended without a contract, said he was denying the union’s motion for outright free agency, based on his ruling last July 12. In that ruling he said such free agency could hurt competitive balance and “would work a wholesale subversion of the collective bargaining process.”

But he approved limited free agency--the so-called “Plan B,” which was implemented unilaterally by the league in place of the contract that expired Sept. 1, 1987. It allows each of the 28 teams to protect only 37 players on its roster, with the others--an average of 22--becoming unconditional free agents. According to Management Council figures, as of last Friday, 126 of the 619 free agents under the so-called “Plan B” had changed teams.