The NCAA has stripped the Eastern College Athletic qualifying sports in the national college basketball tournment, The Washington Post has learned.
Locally, the NCAA, action affects Georgetown and Catholic universities. Both schools are members of the ECAC Upper New York-Southern basketball division, which has awarded one of those three automatic spots to its post-season tournament champion. Georgetown has won that tourney twice and lost to Old Dominion in the final last season.
The NCAA decision, to be appealed by the ECAC, came about as a result of legislation passed in January at the NCAA convention. The legislation was supported by a majority of ECAC members.
The approved proposal was designed by its sponsor, the NCAA Council, to put an end to schools forming one-sport conferences in order to gain an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.
In order to maintain the automatic qualifier, conferences now must determine league champions in at least six sports, including basketball.
If a Division I conferences does not presently meet this criteria, it has three years to make the necessary changes. If it is not a Division I conference, it must meet the criteria immediately to keep the automatic bid.
The ECAC is comprised mostly of Division III schools and thus is classified a Division III conference. It cannot take advantage of the three-year waiver rule, nor does it presently select a single champion in six sports.
"As a result, the NCAA says we don't meet the automatic-qualifying standards," said Temple athletic director Ernie Casale, a top ECAC official. "We think there is enough gray area in the legislation to make a successful appeal possible, but unitl the appeal is approved, we don't have the three qualifiers."
Frank Rienzo, Georgetown athletic director, said he thought that once the NCAA officers realized that "we were voting on the floor under a different interpretation of the legislation than is now being given, they'll give the bids back.
"There is no way that the ECAC would have voted for the legislation if we knew this was going to happen. That's pretty obvious. We were told before the vote that it would not affect us and we had no reason not to believe it."
Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson said that losing the bid would have an effect on his program.
"Knowing that we had a shot at an automatic bid every year gave the kids an incentive and a goal," he said.
"Without the bid, it puts us at a disadvantage as an independent.
"One thing this should bring about," said Casale, "is a reorganization of the ECAC, something that a lot of us have been pushing for years. We'll divide into three conferences - Divisions I, II and III - under the ECAC unbrella. But that won't help us right now.?