John A. Fuzak, a former president of the NCAA whose own university, Michigan State, was once the target of an NCAA investigation for rules violations, urged yesterday that the NCAA's investigate procedures be changed so accused schools could get a fair hearing.
While saying he is a staunch advocate of the need for an NCAA, Fuzak told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that determinations of guilt are often made before both sides of the case are presented.
Fuzak, who said he was reluctant to testify before the subcommittee until he was asked, added that he wanted to propose the changes in 1975 when he was NCAA president, but didn't because MSU was under investigation.
Fuzak said he believes the NCAA will be receptive to changes. But another witness, Missouri Valley Commissioner Mickey Holmes, went even further to predict "very major action" will be taken at the next NCAA convention on the current procedures.
Both Fuzak and Holmes said college presidents and athletic officials are becoming increasingly sensitive to individual rights and the lack of due process in NCAA investigations.
One of the difficulties in effecting change, they said, is that the vast number of NCAA member schools have not subjected to such investigations.
Fuzak, now a dean of MUS's College of Education, said, "A sense of resentment exists among many insitutional representatives who have gone through the experience, although most hide their feelings because they feel it would be unwise to do otherwise."
The first problem with the current system, Fuzak said, is an "inescapable relationship" between the investigative staff (the prosecutor) and the Infractions Committee (judge and jury), who work very closely together.
Too often, Fuzak said, the staff's version is the only one given credence. He would prefer the establishment of a separate hearing body to make judgements while the Infractions Committee and staff continue to work together.
Once a charge is made against a student-athlete to the committee's satisfaction, the NCAA forces the college to declare the student ineligible, on pain of having the entire men's athletic program be placed on probation.
But, before the college makes such a declaration, it holds a hearing to confirm to the "due process" requirements of the college, Fuzak said, then the NCAA penalty is imposed, regardless of the college's findings.
The Infractions Committee should have provided for the "due process" right of the students or coaches before its decision was made, Fuzak said. If such were the case, he added, the time and expense involved would probably ensure only serious "knowingly, willingly" violations would be investigated, instead of trivial ones.
Besides a separate hearing panel, Fuzak also suggested that more emphasis be placed on education and prevention of rules violations since many students have no idea what many of them are.
He also called for an increase in the investigative staff with members located around the country where they would learn firsthand what that area's problems are. "This familiarity should diminish dependence upon allegations from intense athletic competitors or sports writers," Fuzak said.
He also criticized the NCAA for refusing to provide the accused schools with a list of its accusations, the accusers, or any evidence.
Holmes, who agreed with Fuzak that federal intervention was not warranted, testified that NCAA officials were exceptionally defensive when he proposed a study committee on NCAA enforcement procedures last year.
Some modifications in the enforcement procedures were made at January's convention, but Holmes said several more were needed.
Holmes also suggested that reforms in the NCAA should include a close scrutiny of the relationship between the various NCAA committees, and the Executive Council for "potential inbredness" and "self-perpetuation."