A number of proposals to reform the NCAA's current investigative and enforcement procedures, including the joint questioning of witnesses by the NCAA and the accused school, were made to Congress yesterday.
The suggestions to the House Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, which is probing NCAA procedures, came from Charles Neinas, commissioner of the Big Eight Conference, and three representatives of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Some of the proposals, if enacted by the NCAA, would eliminate the kinds of developments that UNLV basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian said made him feel as though he were with "Alice in Wonderland" during the NCAA's investigation of him, UNLV and Long Beach State, where he coached before joining UNLV.
By court order still the head basketball coach a UNLV, Tarkanian detailed the many twists and turns in the NCAA's investigation of him - events that led Rep. Jim Santini (D-Nev.) to push for the subcommittee hearings. Santini was joined in his drive for hearings by 69 other members of Congress who got constitutent complaints about the NCAA.
Following yesterday's testimony, Rep. John E. Moss (D-Calif.), subcommittee chairman, said, "It would be far preferable for the (NCAA) institutions to (make reforms) themselves. But to this point, they haven't demonstrated any willingness to . . . The ball is clearly in our corner and I think we're going to have to play it."
Moss said after the hearing that the subcommittee may want to set "certain minimum standards of law" to assure due process for student-athletes and colleges.
NCAA spokesman Tom Hansen said afterwards that improvements in NCAA procedures are "a matter of continuing concern and are not something that started with these hearings or will end with them . . .
"I would not at all suggest that the (NCAA) Council or the members are going to rush to make changes based on what's said here."
Among suggestions made by Neinas, a former NCAA employee, was one to have "parallel investigations" in which the NCAA and a college representative would jointly probe allegations of rule violations.
"This would enable both parties to interrogate witnesses at the same time which would presumably eliminate a difference of opinion as to the interpretation of a witness' statement," Neinas said.
Endorsing that proposal were UNLV witnesses, Chancellor Donald Baepler and attorney Michael Leavitt. They and Tarkanian noted that the almost five-year period between the time the college was told it would be investigated and the NCAA's hearings on the charges resulted in confusing and conflicting testimony. Many witnesses, they added, had long since scattered to parts unknown.
Neinas also suggested that the NCAA distinguish between major and minor violations.