Schedule a factor for Terps, Goodman

Sabbath observance would require change from ACC and NCAA

January 12, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

If the University of Maryland wanted to schedule around Tamir Goodman's observance of the Jewish Sabbath, it would have to seek allowances with the Atlantic Coast Conference's television partners and ask the NCAA men's basketball committee for some flexibility during its tournament.

Goodman, a 6-foot-3 junior at the Talmudical Academy in Pikesville, Sunday accepted a scholarship offer to play for the Terps. Goodman is an Orthodox Jew, and observance of the Sabbath has kept him from playing from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

Harold Katz, Goodman's coach, said he received assurance from coach Gary Williams that Goodman's religious beliefs would be factored into Maryland's scheduling. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from discussing prospective players until they sign letters of intent, and Goodman won't do so until next November.

At the earliest, Goodman would play for Maryland in the 2000-01 season.

Maryland dictates its nonconference schedule, but the ACC oversees its 16 conference games. Had Goodman played for the Terps this season, he would have to sit out three ACC games next month and the conference tournament's semifinals March 6.

For the first time in its history, every ACC regular-season game will be televised this season. Three conference games will air on ESPN's Saturday night package, but according to Ken Haines, executive vice president of Raycom Sports, rights holder of ACC basketball, the product has grown into a Saturday afternoon staple.

"It would probably be very difficult not to have a team on at all on Saturday afternoon," Haines said. "From a TV point of view, we have a preponderance of clearances on Saturday afternoon. It would be more difficult to get stations to clear time for games in the evening."

Tom Mickle, an associate commissioner of the ACC, said he could never remember the conference dealing with a case like Goodman's, but said that time was on Maryland's side.

"We've had some requests in the past, to avoid Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana during football season," Mickle said. "We've tried to make reasonable accommodations, but there's never been a mandate to do that. There's no conference policy to address this situation. It's something that the conference would have to discuss and vote on at a future meeting."

Mickle said that the ACC semifinals have been played on Saturday afternoon for nearly two decades and that he could not remember anyone appealing the schedule of the conference tournament.

The NCAA is not in the habit of making scheduling exemptions for individuals, but it has done so for institutions. The issue of religious exemptions is being reviewed by the NCAA, which failed in its attempt to end the 35-year-old "BYU Rule" last year.

Brigham Young University is operated by the Mormon Church, and observes the Sabbath on Sunday. The NCAA traditionally has steered BYU clear from a Friday-Sunday site for its men's basketball tournament, which is spread over three weekends.

Prospective teams are asked if there are any circumstances the men's basketball committee should consider when it builds its bracket for March Madness, but the tournament's director said that there are no guarantees that requests are met.

"I've only been doing this 10 years, and don't remember ever doing a time of day exception," Bill Hancock said. "If a college asks for a consideration, then the committee makes the best effort to accommodate it, but it's important to remember that there are no guarantees."

Some could interpret basketball to be recreation and not work, enabling Goodman to play on the Sabbath under Jewish law. The rabbi at Congregation Bais Lubavitch, the synagogue Goodman attends, said he does not expect that to be an issue.

"There's no question that, at the professional level, basketball is work," Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon said. "Even at this [the college] level, it's not within the spirit of the Sabbath. I wouldn't be surprised if that might be challenged, but I don't think Tamir is going down that road."

Rule 3, Section 6 of the NCAA basketball rules states that "head decorations, head wear and jewelry are illegal," but Goodman's wearing of a yarmulke will not be an issue. Exceptions are made, as in the instance of the players at New York's Yeshiva University, a member of Division III.

"That's never been a problem that I'm aware of," said Richard Zerneck, athletic director at Yeshiva. "If you stop and think about it, in this litigious age, can you imagine someone trying to stop that?"

Sun staff writer Mike Klingaman contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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