The National Collegiate Athletic Association Council voted yesterday to hold a special convention during the week of Dec. 6 to consider demands from many of its football powers that its top division be restructured to meet the needs of schools with major athletic programs.
The decision coincided with lawsuits filed by the universities of Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma challenging the NCAA's right to negotiate football television contracts on behalf of its members and the issuance in Texas of a temporary restraining order barring the NCAA from coercing schools into backing out of competing agreements.
The special convention was voted for during a telephone conference call just two days before the deadline for most of the football powers to choose between the NCAA's $263.5 million, four-year contract with ABC and CBS to televise football games and a $180 million pact negotiated by the College Football Association with NBC.
An NCAA spokesman said the site and date of the convention will be determined later.
The fact that the convention was called appeared to be a step toward meeting the demand of several of the football powers that, if they are to stay with the NCAA, the association's top division must be restructured.
Both the Big Eight Athletic Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference, all of whose schools are members of both the NCAA and the CFA, had formally requested that a convention be called. They had asked that the NCAA respond to their request by midnight Thursday, the deadline for a decision on the CFA-NBC package.
The Southeastern Conference, while not asking for a special convention, passed a resolution calling for reorganization of the NCAA's top division.
ACC athletic directors are meeting today and Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., to discuss the NCAA-CFA conflict, and the Southeastern Conference is to discuss the matter in a conference call today. Big Eight athletic directors have set aside time for a meeting Thursday. Several officials in all three conferences have said they are seeking a compromise, not a confrontation, with the NCAA and that they hope a special convention can be the means of a resolution.
In issuing the restraining order barring the NCAA from coercing members to opt out of the CFA package, Texas District Court Judge Charles Mathews set a Sept. 18 hearing on the matter.
The NCAA earlier had threatened sanctions, including probation and expulsion, against member schools selecting the CFA television package. On Aug. 21 in Atlanta the 61 CFA schools voted, 33-20, in favor of the NBC contract. Five schools abstained and three did not vote.
"It is clear to me that the NCAA has been waging a campaign to coerce and intimidate CFA members to elect not to be bound by the CFA-NBC agreement," said L.O. Morgan, chairman of the University of Texas Athletics Council for Men, in an affidavit filed with the suit. The suit also said the NBC television package was more lucrative than the NCAA's.
The Oklahoma and Georgia suit seeks a judgment from the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma that the television rights to a college football team belong to the college, not an outside organization such as the NCAA.
An NCAA spokesman said it is association policy not to comment on lawsuits until their attorneys have an opportunity to review them.
In announcing the special convention, NCAA President Jim Frank, president of Missouri's Lincoln University, said proposals for reorganizing the top division should be submitted by the week of Oct. 7.