Schultz says NCAA didn't let UNLV off sanctions hook

March 29, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

INDIANAPOLIS -- Nevada-Las Vegas' presence in this year's men's basketball tournament hasn't caused NCAA executive director Dick Schultz to lose sleep, but he's not particularly thrilled about it either.

Schultz, addressing members of the media assembled for this weekend's Final Four, said the decision to allow UNLV to delay sanctions that would have kept it out of this year's tournament was not his idea, but it is one that he can live with.

"I'm not saying it was right or wrong. I'm just trying to explain the circumstances," said Schultz.

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions, in settling a 1977 case against UNLV, ruled last July that the Rebels would not be allowed to defend their title and would have to sit out this year's tournament.

However, after negotiating with the school and under the threat of a lawsuit by UNLV players, the committee decided to postpone the sanction to next season, when the Rebels not only will be banned from the tournament, but cannot appear on live television.

Schultz said the public's perception is that UNLV and its coach, Jerry Tarkanian, have gotten away with something. That perception is particularly true among fans of other schools that have been hit by NCAA sanctions. But Schultz said the Rebels have paid for their crimes.

"It was a decision that was misunderstood," Schultz said. "People don't understand that UNLV served a two-year probation. They think the infractions committee let them off the hook.

"They try to compare it to their school and really it is worlds apart."

Schultz added, though, that he "was not sure what kind of message" the reversal sent at a time when reform is the dominant issue in college athletics. But he did say that he was "not troubled" by the specter of Tarkanian accepting the championship trophy, should UNLV win this weekend.

"He's a terrific coach and he has a terrific team," said Schultz.

"If they're good enough to win two more games, they'd deserve the championship and I'd be one of the first to congratulate them."

In a related matter, Schultz said that schools in states that pass legislation requiring the NCAA to follow due process procedures in enforcement matters -- similar to those in court proceedings -- could find themselves unable to participate in NCAA-sponsored championships.

Schultz said he didn't know how the NCAA membership would view actions in states such as Nebraska that have moved to require the NCAA to adopt due process guidelines in dealing with potential punishment cases.

"Maybe they would say that those schools could be members, but they couldn't participate in championships," Schultz said. "I'm just speculating."

Schultz stressed that the NCAA does in fact offer due process, but that it doesn't follow the known courtroom model, where subpoenas, rules of evidence and punishment of reluctant witnesses for contempt of court are part of the mix.

He said the image of the NCAA as a "Gestapo" is wrong and that the problems attached to reform in college athletics are not generally related to coaches or athletic department officials, but to boosters and alumni.

"The biggest challenge is dealing with the public and boosters," said Schultz.

"If the public will accept the fact that we have to do things to correct the situation, nobody would have to worry about due process because the situation would take care of itself."

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