NCAA delegates approved a preseason National Invitation Tournament in basketball today. Passage came about an hour before adjournment of a rather tranquil NCAA convention that Executive Director Walter Byers said signaled "a movement of revival of conscience . . . an effort for a cleaner life in intercollegiate athletics."
Last fall he estimated that 30 percent of the nation's major football and basketball schools were seriously violating NCAA rules. Today, he said that "85-90 percent would like an intercollegiate athletic society in which they can win with integrity, without cheating, and just (with) their coaching skills.
"We're tired of having the tail dictate to the dog. We're tired of the people wanting to cheat forcing us, tempting us, to their competitive levels. We don't want that."
It was in this atmosphere that sponsors of the preseason NIT were leery they would be able to add a showcase tournament on the final two weekends of November. But, despite opposition from the biggest schools, other Division I delegates were swayed by the argument that a defeat of this proposal could spell the end of the postseason NIT, diluted in recent years by the expansion of the NCAA tournament to 64 teams.
The preseason NIT will have 16 teams annually, but no more than one from any conference and no one team more than once every three years. Each of the 29 conferences automatically invited to the NCAA tournament is guaranteed at least one invitation every 10 years.
The first and second rounds will be played at neutral regional sites. The semifinals and final would be at Madison Square Garden, pending successful negotiations for the arena. Jack Kaiser, athletic director at St. John's, said NIT officials have talked to NBC and will talk soon to CBS about a network TV contract.
Approval by Division I was necessary because the games will not be counted against the NCAA regular-season limit of 28, just as games played in Alaska or Hawaii are not counted. But passage ran against the grain of this reform-minded convention that today imposed limits on the schedules on all sports in Divisions I and II. Only football, basketball, soccer and ice hockey had been limited.
The proposals regarding the NIT and playing seasons were the two most significant passed today.
Delegates defeated all key financial aid questions, including one that would have given Division I the authority to increase or decrease the value of a scholarship on its own. Byers today said he read those actions not as divisive, but merely as waiting for recommendations from the year-old President's Commission, which has called a special convention in June to consider issues of institutional integrity and financial aid.
"This convention, by its action, is marking time and waiting for a signal to come from the President's Commission," Byers said.
The atmosphere at this convention was quite unlike that the last few when such emotional subjects as women's issues, football TV, Division I criteria, academic standards and NCAA structure caused overall acrimony and divisiveness. But the damage resulting from last summer's Supreme Court decision deregulating TV football controls appeared to push this convention into unity.
"Colleges and universities need cohesiveness," Byers said. "Any fragmentation of society of higher education . . . ultimately will lead to weakness and chaos."
He said he noted a sense of accommodation among the three divisions and the three subdivisions of Division I, a sense of reduced animosity, and "a mood of revival, if you will."
"(There's) a spirit of integrity we want to reestablish the direction of intercollegiate athletics," he said at his annual postconvention press conference. "We want to move toward a better day and commitment, if you will, to the rules of intercollegiate athletics, "he said at his annual postconvention press conference. "We want to move toward a better day and commitment, if you will, to the rules of intercollegiate athletics.
"Now, I'm not suggesting to you that I believe we're there nor do I imply that we're really much more than embarked upon a good start."
He cited as examples the ethics committee of the American Football Coaches Association saying, in his words, " 'Let's penalize the transgressors and chronic violators, and get them out of the profession.' It was one of the most encouraging signs I've seen since I started talking out."
He pointed to the Infractions Committee's moving "dramatically to increase the penalities," as it did in imposing a reduced scholarship cap in the Florida case, a move backed by AFCA. "They have on course a program to make violators, in the future, think twice," he said of the Infractions Committee.
And he praised passage of Proposition 85, eliminating complimentary tickets to athletes. Now, except at conference basketball tournaments, a gate list will be used, limited exclusively to athletes, their relatives and friends at the same school.
In addition to athletes selling the tickets, a direct violation of NCAA rules, coaches have skirted the rule by giving the tickets to the parents and telling them that they do whatever they want with them. Byers called the new rule "a direct hit upon that problem."
In referring a resolution of amateurism back to the NCAA Council, delegates want the Council and President's Commission to study whether more liberal rules of amateurism should prevail in the NCAA and bring it before a convention for a vote.