WAIT AND SEE : Most Athletic Officials Are Unsure What NCAA’s Next Move Will Be
The Supreme Court appeared to have given the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. more power to police its ranks Monday when it rejected an 11-year-old challenge by Jerry Tarkanian, Nevada Las Vegas basketball coach.
But few coaches or athletic directors had had a chance to assess how much power the NCAA had gained, or how the organization would use it.
USC Coach George Raveling said: “It appears that the Supreme Court has given the NCAA broad, sweeping and unusual powers.”
Yet Raveling was unsure how those powers would be used.
“To me, it appears to be more of a question of jurisprudence than it does intercollegiate athletics,” he said.
Just as Tarkanian’s status with the NCAA is clouded--will the 2-year suspension the NCAA levied against the coach in 1977 for recruiting violations be upheld or waived?--so is every coach’s and athletic director’s with the governing body.
But by ruling that a private organization cannot violate an individual’s Constitutional rights, as in ordering a coach to be suspended, the Supreme Court, in its 5-4 decision, certainly gave the NCAA a freer hand in disciplining its members.
Some say that the NCAA will gain authority in the area of drug testing, which some member schools and athletes have protested, claiming the tests violate privacy rights protected by the Constitution. Drug testing, however, remains a controversial Constitutional issue.
USC Athletic Director Mike McGee said: “I applaud it if it improves the NCAA power relating to drug testing. If that’s the net of the decision, it’s helpful.”
Barbara Hedges, USC’s women’s athletic director agreed: “The NCAA is our governing body and it ought to have power in its ability to drug-test. I would agree in context to the philosophy behind the ruling.”
The decision, however, does not apply to the California case in which a Superior Court judge’s ruling in San Jose last August barred the NCAA from drug testing at Stanford. The judge ruled that the state Constitution applies to private as well as governmental actions.
But two former coaches, one of whom was twice investigated by the NCAA and whose programs were put on probation, were wary of the benefits of any increased power to enforce.
“I think we need a body like the NCAA, but I just don’t enjoy their practices,” said Larry Brown, who left the University of Kansas after it had won the national championship last spring and before NCAA sanctions of his program were announced.
“You’re guilty until you prove you’re innocent and you don’t get to meet your accuser and they don’t use due process and they use wire-tapping. You know they did that with me and some of those things are really ugly and upsetting.”
Brown, now coach of the San Antonio Spurs and once UCLA’s coach, continued: “We do need an organization to police intercollegiate athletics and that’s something that is very important, but I think they ought to consider a person’s rights as well.”
Al McGuire, who coached Marquette to a national championship in 1977, wondered why this was even being considered in the Supreme Court.
“I’m trying to figure out what the Supreme Court is jerking around with nets and hoops and roundballs,” he said. “It seems so insignificant. We’ve got an earthquake in Russia, we’ve got AIDS, drugs and monumental things, and these nine supposedly highly intelligent people are fooling around with whether Jerry Tarkanian is eligible to coach in Tark the Shark’s Tank on the Strip in Las Vegas. Only in America.
“It seems so absurd. Don’t worry about the narcotics coming in from Colombia or Mexico. Let’s find out if some junior college kid got a free T-shirt.”
But for the most part, reaction among Tarkanian’s community of coaches and their employers was puzzlement.
“What does this mean?” asked Stan Morrison, former USC coach, now athletic director at UC Santa Barbara. He had heard the news between meetings and was unsure of how it would change intercollegiate athletics, or if it would.
At Stanford, Athletic Director Andy Geiger was no less certain. “I don’t know what this means,” he said. He referred all further calls to the school’s lawyer.
Times staff writers Mal Florence, Chris Baker, Rich Roberts, John Cherwa and Jerry Crowe contributed to this story.