Panel suggests new rules for NCAA Schools under probe would get choices

October 29, 1991|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- After seven months of study, a distinguished panel of legal scholars announced yesterday that the NCAA is generally doing a good job enforcing the rules of college athletics.

And that it could be doing much more.

The special committee to review the NCAA enforcement and infractions process offered plenty of suggestions. In all, the distinguished committee, whose members include a retired Supreme Court chief justice, a former U.S. attorney general and a former U.S. solicitor general, proposed 11 new rules designed to quicken the pace of investigations and to restore confidence among schools and sports fans.

"We are talking about major enhancements to the infractions process," said the NCAA's executive director, Dick Schultz, who formed the special committee last April to look at ways to improve the system of dealing with schools who are suspected of rules violations.

Schultz said a majority of the proposed changes could be approved by the NCAA Council. Others must be voted on by the full NCAA membership, he said.

Many of the recommendations contained in the report are likely to lead to loud conversation at next January's NCAA convention. PTC In that category are a series of rules that would change the way infractions cases are conducted.

According to the special committee's report, schools under investigation would be offered new choices. In the early stages, they would be invited to meet with the NCAA enforcement staff in an attempt to agree on facts surrounding the alleged violation and on a suitable penalty.

In these cases, the school might then receive summary disposition -- a resolution of the case -- and not be required to go through a lengthy, full-blown process. Under the current system, there is no chance to cut short the investigation in this way.

For schools that cannot agree with the NCAA on facts or penalties, the special committee recommendations offer a new option. These cases would be presented to a hearing officer, one who does not work directly for the NCAA. Hearing officers most likely would be chosen from a pool of retired federal or state court judges who probably would be paid nominally for the job.

The hearing would be open to the public, a radical departure from the current policy of keeping private virtually all facts surrounding infractions cases until they are completed.

Rex E. Lee, chairman of the special committee and president of Brigham Young University, said the panel was split on whether to urge the hearings be open.

For years, informants have been able to relay information about alleged rules violations to NCAA investigators with some assurance they would not be identified. Lee said he recognized a rule of this type might have a chilling effect on some.

But he added that open hearings would "enhance public confidence by dissipating the questions about what is happening during the process."

In addition to Lee, who served as solicitor general from 1981 to '85, the 11-member committee's members included former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Baltimore attorney Benjamin R. Civiletti, former U.S. attorney general.

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