Representatives of two major universities placed on probation for violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules charged yesterday that their schools had been denied due process during the NCAA's investigation and hearings on their cases.
Subpoenaed to appear before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, officials of Michigan State and Mississippi State recounted the turbulence and hostility they said were hallmarks of the investigations.
Several times, Rep. James Saintini (D-Nev.), who chaired yesterday's session, had to note that most of the witnesses were appearing reluctantly. One witness. Bob Tyler, Mississippi State football coach, explained that he did not prepare a statement because of fear of possible reprisals by the NCAA.
Tyler said the NCAA still has a charge pending against Mississippi State and the school must go before the NCAA Executive Council for judgement. Mississippi State's probation ends after the 1978 season.
Clifton Wharton, former chancellor of Michigan State who is now chancellor of the State University of New York, said he immediately appointed a blue-ribbon panel for an internal investigation of 90-odd violations the school was charged with in 1975. Michigan State was also placed on two years' football probation.
While not expecting the formalities of a courtroom, Wharton said, he still expected the basic protections of the U.S. Constitution.
"I would point ot the lack of due process, the free admission and consideration of hearsay evidence, reliance upon investigator's handwriten, unverified notes of interviews, the inability of those involved to face their accusers or even know their indentity and, at least until recently, the refusal to permit those accused or witness to have legal counsel present," Wharton said.
"We never were informed where many of the accusations had originated except for the admission, incredibly enough, that some were based on newpaper articles. There was, in my estimation, a very pervasive attitude in the whole proceeding that it was the university's obligation to prove its innocence, rather than for its guilt to be establishment," be continued.
Frederick D. Williams, a history professor at Michigan State, spoke for the four-man blue-ribbon panel. He said the NCAA refused to cooperate with its study by providing evidence on which the NCAA charges were brought, granted immunity to student-athletes willing to testify against the college and changed that one investigator used "threats, intimidation and vulgarity" to secure information.
William also said that a coach accused letting students use his credit card took a polygraph test and passed it. The students admitted stealing it, he said, but the NCAA still found the coach guilty.
Erwin C. Ward and Dixon L. Pyles, lawyers representing Mississippi State, also accused the NCAA of violating due process and cited a case involving defensive tackle Larry Gillard.
Gillard lost a year's elegibility because he received a discount on two pairs of slacks and two shirts a store run by Howard Miskelly of Okolana, Miss.
Miskelly said he charged Gillard only $50 for $62 worth of clothing. Miskelly said he regularly gives discounts to all students and didn't know they were illegal for athlets. Gillard said he did not know he had been given a discount.
Miskelly said the NCAA would not permit him to testify about the incident during the hearing on the case by the Committee on Infractions.
The NCAA's subsequent finding of guilt, Ward said, "clearly demonstrates . . . an arbitrary denial of the substantive due process rights of Larry Gillard."
Ward added, "I have developed a genuine concern with a system of procedures that have evolved where an apparent power pocket exists in a vacuum within the NCAA's enforcement division, with no effective checks and balances to prevent arbitrary selection of institutions to be investigated or to prevent arbitrary charges, procedures, findings and sanctions against institutions and individuals.
"Such actions affect not only member institutions in a substantially detrimental manner, but, more particularly, the rights and privileges of individuals as well, under circumstances where such individuals have no standing before the NCAA to effectively protest their rights, reputations or interest."
Pyles called for the establishment of a federal agency to oversee the NCAA. But Rep. Norman Lent (R.N.Y.) noted that such a federal agency might act "as efficiently as the Postal Service, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and Amtrak."
"That would be horrible," Pyles replied.
NCAA officials are to testify later in hearings. No date for the next sesion was set.