The NCAA may have lots of new friends on the Las Vegas Strip, but its popularity in its own backyard is near zero.
"How can we respect the NCAA now after this?" said Kim Hutton, a senior from Derby, Kan., who echoed the sentiments of many students on the sprawling University of Kansas campus. "Nobody here has anything against Las Vegas. But how can they be so inconsistent?"Kansas was prevented from defending its 1988 NCAA championship after it was found guilty of recruiting violations. But the NCAA, in an unprecedented reversal Thursday, changed its mind about UNLV and agreed to let the top-ranked Runnin' Rebels defend their 1990 title.
"I sure wish they'd given us a multiple choice penalty," said basketball coach Roy Williams.
UNLV, as a result of its 13-year-old case involving coach Jerry Tarkanian, was told in July it would join Kansas as the only basketball champions not allowed to defend their championship. But after the school offered some alternative punishments, the NCAA came up with a compromise which the Rebels quickly snapped Thursday afternoon.
On the Kansas campus, less than 20 miles from the NCAA's gleaming new office building in suburban Kansas City, folks were stunned.
"I can't believe what the NCAA did," said Jeff Gueldner, a guard on Kansas' national championship team. "It looks to me like the rules are not applied uniformly."
Del Brinkman, a vice president at Kansas and the school's faculty representative to the NCAA since 1978, issued a one-sentence statement.
"I didn't think it was possible to negotiate with the NCAA," he said.
Williams followed Larry Brown as Kansas coach after Brown and two-time All-American Danny Manning led the Jayhawks to the 1988 title.
The next fall, at the end of a relatively brief investigation by NCAA standards, the Jayhawks were hit with a three-year probation for violations primarily involving a player who never enrolled at Kansas. Severe recruiting restrictions were imposed along with the one-year tournament ban.
"I'm happy for the players at UNLV," Williams said in a statement. "What the NCAA did, though, just amazes me. I sure wish they'd given us a multiple choice penalty. I have no other comment to make about those decision-makers."
"If they're going to start making special exceptions, I wish they had started with us," said Gueldner, who finished his eligibility last season and is now completing work on a business degree. "I think this is going to make it hard for the NCAA.
"It is unfair to the UNLV players to punish them for something that happened way back in the 1970s. But none of the guys on our team had anything to do with the allegations that were levied against us. We even had a whole new coaching staff. It would have been nice for us to have an option, too."