The NCAA has reinstated to the Eastern College Athletic Conference its three automatic bids to the field of 32 teams in the Division 1 basketball tournament.
The decision, which locally affects Georgetown and George Washington universities, came after the ECAC appealed to the NCAA executive committee.
In June, the NCAA stripped the ECAC of its three automatic berths, citing an interpretation of legislation passed at the January, 1977. NCAA convention. Ironically, ECAC members had supported the legislation.
The issue concerned the fact that the ECAC's three conferences did not compete in enough league championships in other sports. The NCAA set this policy to block basketball schools from forming conferences whose sole goals were automatic berths in the 32-team basketball tournament.
"The ECAC will meet the (national) criteria in three years," said Georgetown athletic director Frank Rienzo. "The NCAA executive council and executive committee felt the ECAC position was one that was acceptable, that we should not be eliminated arbitrarily, as we were. We are willing to go along with the same system as everyone else."
The decision, however, did not come as a surprise to Rienzo.
"We're pleased," he said. "When it came out, I said it was something that needed to be corrected and it would be. So I was not too concerned when it happened because I thought it would be rectified. This comes as no great surprise or great shock."
What Rienzo like sbest about it is that it will keep backroom lobbying out of the decision process. If the ECAC bid had not been upheld, then its members would have been at the mercy of the NCAA basketball committee for at-large bids.
"I like the athletes to decide who moves on to the next round," Rienzo said.
The NCAA executive committee also upheld another ECAC appeal, concerning the wishes of the NCAA basketball committee to drop the ECAC from three automatic qualifying berths to two for the 1978 tournament.
Starting in 1978-78, the NCAA will award 16 automatic berths to the 16 conferences with the best won-lost record over the past five years in NCAA tournament play. It is probable that the ECAC would keep its three automatic bids, Rienzo said.