WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court cut short yesterday a move by state legislatures to curb the NCAA's power to punish colleges, coaches, athletes and boosters for breaking NCAA rules.
In a brief order, the court rejected an appeal drawn out of a long-running dispute between former Nevada-Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and the NCAA over complaints of recruiting violations in the Runnin' Rebels program.
Although the court gave no explanation for its action, it appears that it would thwart efforts in a dozen states to control NCAA investigative procedures. Those states wanted additional safeguards for the rights of those being probed -- such as a right to have all decisions made by a neutral "judge" rather than an NCAA official.
Nevada, Nebraska, Florida and Illinois legislatures had passed laws along those lines, and eight other legislatures were considering them.
The campaign to pass such laws followed a 1988 Supreme Court ruling, saying that since the NCAA is not a government agency, it does not have to protect the constitutional rights of coaches and athletes when it investigates or punishes them.
Nevada's law, passed in 1991, had the effect of stopping the NCAA probe of the UNLV basketball program. The NCAA then went to court, leading to a U.S. appeals court decision in November striking down the Nevada law. That was the result the Supreme Court left intact yesterday.
Tarkanian left the UNLV job during the fight with the NCAA, and later had a brief pro coaching career with the San Antonio Spurs.