UNLV basketball players issued a statement Tuesday saying they would not compete in the NCAA tournament if Jerry Tarkanian does not remain as head coach.
UNLV, which won the men's basketball title last April, was banned by the NCAA from postseason play next season for failing to suspend Tarkanian for past infractions. Tarkanian has said he would step aside as coach during the tournament if the NCAA agreed to lift its ban on the Runnin' Rebels defending their championship.The UNLV basketball program goes before the NCAA infractions committee Oct. 28. If the NCAA denies the appeal on the 28th, school officials said they will take their case before the NCAA council for appeals in January.
"We met with Coach Tark yesterday," the statement read. "We appreciate what the coach said, but we don't feel what's happening is fair or justified.
"We are a team. We are a close team. But more so, we are a family. Coach Tark is not only part of our family, he is the head of our family. He is like a father to all of us.
"We do respect Coach Tark's feelings and his decision. However, we urge the NCAA to allow our family to remain whole and compete for the national championship. We would prefer to not compete without Coach Tark.
"Our family went through a lengthy and difficult time together (because of) the NCAA last year. Each of us was interviewed several times by investigators from the NCAA. We know of no wrongdoing by us, the coaches or the university.
"Our family came to play. We want to play. Let us play together."
The players made their statement after meeting with an attorney, Steve Stein.
Before the statement was issued, Tarkanian said he hoped his players would understand why he decided last week to offer to quit if it would clear the way for UNLV to participate in the NCAA tournament this season.
"I think it's important that they ge the opportunity to go," Tarkanian said. "I told them that there were no guarantees but I was hopeful that they would be able to go.
"I've been to enough tournaments. I'll watch the finals on TV from Maui."
Tarkanian said his immediate concern is the opening of practice Monday.
"I've got to get my head into it," he said. "Here it is, a week before the season and I haven't had a chance to think about what offense I'm going to run. Usually, when a team goes through the amount of distractions we went through last year, it would destroy them.
"But our kids get tougher and tougher. I really admire them."
Last week, assistant coach Tim Grgurich said he would refuse to coach the Rebels unless Tarkanian was on the bench with him.