The NCAA and UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian - two longtime adversaries - settled a 13-year battle Thursday with a compromise that allows the Runnin' Rebels to defend their national basketball title.
"Historically, we ended today the 13 years of litigation between Jerry Tarkanian and the NCAA," UNLV president Robert Maxson told a jammed news conference. "All court rulings are history."Maxson's comments came as he announced the university would accept a penalty offered by the NCAA that will ban the Runnin' Rebels from postseason play in 1991-92 and keep them off of live television that season.
In exchange, the NCAA agreed to overturn its ban on UNLV - currently the nation's No. 1-ranked team - defending the national championship it won in April with a 103-73 thrashing of Duke.
The penalty accepted by UNLV was one of two offered by the NCAA. The other alternative was that Tarkanian would sit out this season's playoffs and his team would sit out the 1991-92 playoffs.
"We thought both proposals were very fair," Maxson said. "There were no penalties against the national champions in any way."
In making the unprecedented reversal, the NCAA all but conceded that some players became innocent victims of the 13-year battle. But it also noted that Tarkanian had a hand in dragging it out.
"In many infractions cases, it is the unfortunate fact that the existence of NCAA violations cannot be established until several years after their occurrence," the committee said. It blamed the delay on "litigation on the part of the university's head coach, which ultimately was unsuccessful in restraining the NCAA from implementing this penalty."
A crowd of secretaries and students who jammed an outer office cheered as Maxson announced the university had accepted the second alternative."We regret that next year's team is not eligible," Maxson said. "But we felt it was terribly important our national champions be allowed to defend their title."
Tarkanian, who was in Vancouver, B.C., promoting the team's Saturday game against Alabama-Birmingham, could not immediately be reached for comment, but issued a statement saying he agreed with the decision.
"I am pleased for the kids and fans that we will be allowed to compete," he said. "Let's put these matters behind us and look to the season ahead and defending our national championship."
Even as the 13-year saga came to a close, however, more troubled loomed for UNLV's basketball program with the NCAA.
Maxson said an initial report on an investigation involving former prep star Lloyd Daniels is expected in about two weeks. He said the report has been ready for some time, but was delayed at the request of the school until after resolution of the Tarkanian matter so that the two would not become confused by the same infractions committee that has to hear the Daniels case.
"We have absolutely no idea what is in the report," Maxson said. "Coach Tarkanian says there are no infractions."