WASHINGTON -- A congressional panel announced Thursday it will investigate the way the NCAA governs college sports, after an Alabama congressman complained the organization has been "arbitrary and capricious."
House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisc., directed the committee's panel on the Constitution to hold hearings on the oversight and management practices of the NCAA.
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., asked for the review Tuesday, alleging the NCAA often imposes penalties on schools without due process and has "lost the public confidence."
"They're not even-handed. They may slap one institution for giving a student athlete a ride across campus, then look the other way for serious allegations," he said.
Although Bachus says his call for an investigation wasn't prompted by any specific case, major Alabama colleges have had their share of problems with the NCAA.
Two years ago, the NCAA placed the University of Alabama's football program on probation for five years, banned it from bowls for two years and imposed heavy scholarship reductions for recruiting violations.
Last month, Auburn's basketball program was slapped with two years' probation and the loss of a scholarship, charging that an AAU coach was improperly acting as a representative of the university when he arranged to wire $3,125 to one high school prospect and get a car for another.
Bachus argues the NCAA deliberates in secret, releases only partial reports, and imposes penalties that can't be appealed to a third party.
Jeff Howard, the NCAA's managing director for public relations, said there is no merit to claims that its investigations deny schools due process.
"The NCAA's enforcement process is conducted with the utmost integrity by members of the national office enforcement staff and the Committee on Infractions, which is made up of individuals from member institutions and the general public," Howard said.
Howard pointed out that NCAA member schools developed the enforcement rules and could also change them if enough agreed.
The congressional hearing could focus in part on whether Congress even has any authority to regulate the NCAA.
Bachus said the NCAA is "the only game in town. If you want to have a major sports program, you have to deal with them. They're a state actor because they effect our state institutions, major universities, entire educational system."
Last month, former University of Georgia men's basketball coach Jim Harrick Sr. tried to raise that argument in federal court. His attorney, Robert Tannenbaum argued the NCAA "made themselves a state actor" while investigating allegations of cash payments, academic fraud and other improper benefits under Harrick. But U.S. District Judge Richard Story ruled against Harrick's request.
"I can see us opening a Pandora's box in terms of a court invading a private process and inserting into that process the requirements of a federal proceeding," Story said.
This won't be the first congressional hearing on the NCAA's powers to investigate. In 1991, former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian appeared before a House panel and lambasted the NCAA for conducting a "reign of terror" in college sports, but lawmakers didn't change any law.
On the Net:
Rep. Bachus: http://www.house.gov/bachus
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