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Thursday, August 9, 2007
NCAA won't overturn text messaging ban on recruiting

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- College coaches must keep recruiting the old-fashioned way -- for now.

The NCAA's board of directors took no action Thursday toward overriding a text messaging ban it approved in April, simply sending it back to the membership for another vote at January's annual NCAA convention. Until then, the rule that went into effect Aug. 1 will remain in place.

"The proposals were discussed in April and the board of directors followed the advice of student-athletes that text messaging be eliminated,'' Division I vice president David Berst said. "I think even then the board realized there might be a better solution than elimination, but we haven't seen any yet.''

At least 30 schools must request an appeal in writing to force the committee to reconsider.

The 18-member committee then has three options: To affirm the original decision, sending it back to the membership for another vote while the rule remains in place; overturning the ruling, wiping it off the books completely; or approving an emergency amendment to change the rule and possibly push back the date for implementation.

It takes a simple majority to overturn the ruling, but the committee took no vote and sent it to the full membership.

There is precedent for overturning board rulings at the convention. It has happened twice since 2006, when the NCAA adopted a new appeals process. But schools also voted four times not to change the rules.

When the ban was approved in April, the board uncharacteristically indicated it was willing to reconsider the issue possibly next year. Several proposals are being drafted, Berst said. One would allow coaches to text message student-athletes after they've signed a national letter-of-intent, but Berst wasn't sure that would be a good enough compromise.

"I think we're looking for a better answer than that,'' he said.

Many football coaches and assistant basketball coaches balked at the original decision.

Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, was the most outspoken opponent. He said he had not met with any of committee members but did send a letter expressing the group's opposition.

Jim Haney, Teaff's counterpart at the National Association of Basketball Coaches, remained neutral as the debate heated up this summer, in part because a fall survey of coaches showed nearly a 50-50 split on the issue.

Proponents of the ban, including the Student-Athlete Advisory Council leadership, argued the cost was too prohibitive to recruits and that coaches sent so many messages it bordered on an invasion of privacy.

The board did approve a proposal changing the seating configuration for the Final Four.

Beginning in 2009, the court will move from the football field's end zone to the 50-yard line with new temporary seats filling in the vacancy around the court.

Senior vice president Greg Shaheen said it would be a first-of-its-kind project and would not resemble what he described as the postage stamp-type seating in place for the 1968 game between UCLA and Houston at The Astrodome. Instead, he said it would create more of an arena environment in the dome stadiums.

It also will raise seating capacity to about 70,000 at each Final Four site and allow the NCAA to do something it has long desired -- put students near courtside for the games at a minimal cost. Student vouchers are expected to cost about $15 to $20 for each of the two days, and about 1,000 students from each school will be placed in the four corners of the arenas.

The first test will come at regional sites in Detroit and Houston next spring. Detroit will host the 2009 Final Four.

"Students have not been this close to the court for 20 years,'' Shaheen said. "We think it will produce the much-needed college atmosphere at these games that we've been talking about since we moved to the dome sites.''

Shaheen estimated it would cost the NCAA about $3 million to purchase the seats, which will then be used in each dome selected for the Final Four.

The board also approved a four-year moratorium on adding more Division I schools.

Next year, there will be 331 schools competing at the Division I level and Berst said 23 more are being grandfathered in. But the board wants a committee to establish new Division I standards before approving any more applicants.

"We've seen a continuing desire to move to Division I and we just think it's time to stop and vette that process and take a look at the impact of growth,'' Berst said.

The Division III President's Council also agreed to co-sponsor legislation that limits the use of male athletes at women's teams practices. No more than half of the starting squad, or three basketball players, could consist of men at any time.