LOS ANGELES -- In an unprecedented move, the National Collegiate Athletic Association lifted its sanction prohibiting Nevada-Las Vegas from defending its national title in basketball.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions had ruled in July that UNLV would be prohibited from postseason play after the 1990-91 season as a final penalty stemming from the infractions case that led UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian to take the association to court 13 years ago.
However, in a ruling released yesterday, the committee offered UNLV two alternative penalties, both of which allowed the Runnin' Rebels to participate in postseason competition at the end of the current season.
School officials immediately announced that they would accept one of the alternative penalties, which will prohibit the Rebels from making live television appearances during the 1991-92 season and competing in postseason play in 1992.
The other penalty offered by the committee called for UNLV to be banned from post season competition in 1992 and Tarkanian to be suspended during postseason competition in 1991.
The alternative penalties are similar to, but somewhat stronger than, those offered by Tarkanian and UNLV officials at a meeting with the committee Oct. 28 in Chicago.
In losing its right to appear on television or play in the NCAA tournament in 1992, UNLV will suffer in trying to balance its athletic budget. UNLV basketball made approximately $1.5 million during its championship season of 1989-90. However, because of the NCAA's new distribution formula for tournament revenue, UNLV would make significantly less even with another run to the Final Four.
UNLV's acceptance of one of the alternative penalties effectively ends the bitter legal fight Tarkanian has waged against the NCAA since the organization ordered UNLV to suspend him 13 years ago. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in the NCAA's favor.
Faced with the threat of further legal action by both Tarkanian and UNLV players,the committee offered the alternative penalties as a means of putting the matter to rest.
In its ruling yesterday, the committee wrote: "The committee emphasizes that it is making these two alternatives available to the university because it believes it is in the best interest of all concerned for this lengthy dispute to end, and either one of these alternatives . . . offers the university a fair and reasonable way of ending the dispute."
The Rebels, ranked No. 1 in most preseason polls, have four starters back from the team that overwhelmed Duke, 103-73, April 2 to win UNLV's first NCAA title.
Still to be resolved, however, is a 3-year-old preliminary inquiry into the UNLV program that stems from the school's recruitment of former New York City high school star Lloyd Daniels.
UNLV president Robert Maxson said the school expects to receive a letter of official inquiry, outlining charges against UNLV, in about two weeks.
According to Maxson, the charges have been ready for some time, but the NCAA agreed, at UNLV's request, not to send them to the school until the 1977 case was resolved.
Once it receives the charges, UNLV will have up to 90 days to draft a response before appearing in front of the infractions committee.
In the 1977 case, the NCAA had placed UNLV on two years' probation with sanctions that included two-year bans on postseason competition and television appearances.
If not for the NCAA's change of heart, UNLV would have become the second national basketball champion to be barred from defending its title. The first was Kansas, which won the 1988 NCAA title but had to bypass the 1989 tournament because of recruiting violations.
"I sure wish they'd given us a multiple-choice penalty," Jayhawks basketball coach Roy Williams told The Associated Press.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association offered Nevada-Las Vegas' basketball program a choice of two penalties to settle its 13-year dispute with head coach Jerry Tarkanian, and UNLV picked the latter. The choices:
* A ban on Tarkanian from the NCAA tournament this season and on the Runnin' Rebels from the tournament next season.
* A ban on postseason play and live television in 1991-92.