Alaska tourneys hit hard by new NCAA proposal

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2001

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA management council has approved a proposal that could seriously hurt recruiting of teams for the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage and the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks.

The council voted 27 1/2-21 1/2 to eliminate an exemption from season game limits for preseason tournaments, including those in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

Schools that participate in those tournaments would count all games in which they compete against the NCAA's mandated limit. Current rules allow each tournament to count as one game against a 28-game limit.

If approved by the NCAA Board of Directors, which is scheduled to meet April 26, the eight-team Great Alaska Shootout could account for as many as three games on a team's schedule. Conference tournaments would still count as one game. The season limit on games also would increase from 28 to 29.

"It's very unfortunate, because people forgot the reason for the exemption. It started because of location," said Kathleen McNally, athletic director at Hawaii-Hilo, which stages the Big Island Tournament. "It is so hard to get people to come out here and play, and now it's going to make it that much more difficult."

NCAA president Cedric Dempsey disagreed with McNally. He said universities supported the proposal because of the increase in games played, which led to more missed classes and, he claimed, a decrease in graduation rates.

In fact, Dempsey said, little will change, including the rule that allows schools to compete in only two such tournaments during a four-year span.

"We're not taking away those events," Dempsey said. "The universities will make a decision based on what was voted on today."

The management council also voted Tuesday to allow student-athletes to receive money for giving private lessons and to obtain a one-time $20,000 bank loan based on future earnings.

Under the proposal, college athletes could accept pay for giving private lessons in sports such as golf and tennis. The NCAA also would be allowed to pay disability insurance premiums and permit Olympic-caliber student-athletes to earn money for high-level performances in the Olympics through Operation Gold.

To qualify for the bank loan, an athlete would have to be considered a likely first-round pick in men's basketball, women's basketball or baseball and at least a third-round pick in football or hockey.

"One of the things of great concern is providing some greater sensitivity to student-athletes' time and their future, and some of the professional demands they may face," council chairman Charles Harris said.

"We believe these are steps in the right direction to changing the environment in regard to student-athletes," added Harris, commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Those items all passed with at least 31 1/2 of the 51 votes.

The council also sent to the Board of Directors, a committee of university presidents, a proposal that would reduce basketball scholarships from 13 to 12 if a school's graduation rate dropped to less than 50 percent.

The council approved by voice vote an amateurism deregulation plan that would allow high-school athletes to accept prize money, sign contracts, compete with professionals and earn money and enter the draft while retaining their eligibility. That proposal was sent, without recommendation, back to NCAA members for a 90-day comment period. Dempsey said he expected the Board of Directors to address the issues at its August meeting.

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