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UNLV Could Still Be Facing NCAA Penalty

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although the agreement that resolved the legal battle between Nevada Las Vegas basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian and the NCAA prevents the NCAA from suspending Tarkanian, it does not prevent the imposition of further penalties on the school--a course of action that probably will be considered, the chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions said Friday.

“I don’t know that anything is going to prevent the committee from acting,” said D. Alan Williams, the University of Virginia history professor who is chairman of the committee. “My understanding is that at some point this (the infractions case that prompted Tarkanian to take legal action) will all come back to the committee to be considered relative to the university.”

The 13-year legal battle ended Wednesday when lawyers for both sides signed an agreement striking down an injunction Tarkanian had obtained against the NCAA in Las Vegas District Court, and letting stand an injunction he had obtained against the school. Tarkanian had used the injunctions to continue coaching after the NCAA ordered UNLV to suspend him in 1977 for his role in an infractions case that brought two years’ probation for the school.

Tarkanian’s case against the NCAA--hinging on the question of whether the NCAA should be considered a governmental body whose actions must meet constitutional due process requirements --went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled, 5-4, in the NCAA’s favor in December, 1988. After that decision, the Nevada Supreme Court ordered the lower court to lift Tarkanian’s injunction against the NCAA, but declined to rule on Tarkanian’s injunction against the school.

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Wednesday’s agreement, which also calls for Tarkanian to pay his own legal fees of about $350,000 and court costs of $21,004, resolves the case by providing a definitive ruling on the two injunctions.

However, it leaves the door open for the NCAA to take action against UNLV under the “show cause” provision of the order to suspend Tarkanian in 1977.

The NCAA sought Tarkanian’s suspension after determining that he was involved in 10 of the 38 rules violations documented in the UNLV case. The most serious violation dealt with Tarkanian’s role in attempting to encourage a former UNLV player, who was a key source for the NCAA, to lie to investigators about his dealings with UNLV.

The NCAA could not, according to its rules, directly suspend Tarkanian. Rather, it had to ask the school, which was banned from postseason competition for two years, to “show cause” why it shouldn’t suspend him or be penalized further.

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With Tarkanian’s injunction against the school still in force, he cannot be suspended. But with his injunction against the NCAA finally lifted, the NCAA is free to take further action against the school in lieu of Tarkanian’s suspension.

“So when you see a headline somewhere saying that this whole matter has been settled, that’s not exactly the case,” said Jack Kitchin, a Kansas City, Mo., lawyer who represents the NCAA.

“The effect of this injunction (against the NCAA) being lifted is that it now lets the (infractions) committee go forward with the process as to the institution.”

Williams said he expects his committee to review the case at some point and that an additional penalty against the school is “a possibility.” But he could not predict when the committee might hear the case.

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The committee’s next scheduled meeting is April 21-22. The committee is also scheduled to meet in June and August.

“I presume that when all the legal barriers are resolved, the attorneys will notify the committee to move to resolve this,” Williams said. “As far as I know, the school is subject to penalties under the ‘show cause’ (order). That is my understanding. But when that day will come, I do not know.”


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