An NCAA ruling that Mississippi State forfeit 19 football games for using an ineligible player completing under a court order was assailed yesterday as a potentially "chilling" threat to citizens' rights to seek redress in the courts.
Rep. John E. Moss (D-Calif.), Chairman of a House panel probing NCAA enforcement procedures, issued a statement in the wake of the NCAA's disclosure late Tuesday night that the college would have to forfeit games Larry Gillard played during the 1975-77 seasons.
The college joined the defensive lineman in a 1975 court battle challenging his ineligibility and won a restraining order in state court that allowed Gillard to play for the next seasons while the ruling was being appealed.
The Mississippi Surpreme court ruled in favor of the NCAA last December , leading to Tuesday's action under the NCAA's "Restitution Provision." enacted in 1975.
The provision states that when an ineligible player completes under a court orderwhich is subsequently overturned by the courts, the school is subject to further penalties.
The University of Minnesota, which also fought the NCAA in court over ineligible players and eventually lost on appeal, is to have its case decided in August.
Both MIssissippi State and Minnesota officals and athletes told Moss' subcommittee on oversight and investigations of the House Commerce Committee that they were not given a fair hearing by the NCAA on the eligibility issues.
Referri ng to the "Restutution Provsion," Moss said, "Clearly the retributive aspect of (the section) and this recent NCAA action has the potential of both undermining the judical procesas and creating a chilling effect upon those who would otherwise seek redress ind the courts. "I do not believe that the members of the NCAA should tolerate a provision with such discourages an institution or student-athlete from seeking justifiable relief in the courts. This issue is of utmost concern to me and the subcommittee."
Noting the NCAA soon will testify on its own behalf, Moss added, "I am not unmindful that representatives of Mississippi State, including Mr. Gillard, testified before the subcommittee last Febraury. I raise this only to express my strongest hope that no person take any action which may have the effect of intimidating, impeding or punishing any witness who appear before the subcommittee."
Gillard was declared ineligible for accepting a 20 percent disount at a clothing store. The NCAA said the discount was illegal because lit was not available to a o all students. The store owner, however, told the subcommittee that all students got the discount and that the NCAA refused to let him testify to his during the ineligaibility hearings.
David Berst, the NCCA's director of enfsorcement, said the Mississippi State penalty marked the second time the "Restitution Provision" had been applied . the first was against Oregon State in 1976 after it took an ineligibility ruling to court and lost.
The purpose behind the provision's adoption by the NCAA convention resolution, was: "(To assure that) a party which obtained benefit from an improperly issued injunction has a duty to restore that benefit to those who have been injured by the injunction."
Tom Hansen, the NCCA assistant executive director, in response to Moss' remarks that the congressman "simply refuses to acknowledge tha(the provision) was adopted by the member institutions. It is the institutions which are disadvantaged by the participation of an ineligible player-not the NCAA!"
The NCAA'saction changed State's record from 6-4-1 in 1975 to 2-9 (Gillard did not play in two games). For 1976 (9-2) and 1977 (5-6), the record reads 0-11.