- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2000

The NCAA suits have lost their collective mind, assuming they ever had one.

They have all the answers, all the rules, and they know what is best for the student-athletes.

They know it is wrong if one of their student-athletes swaps sport-utility vehicles with a friend. They know it is wrong if someone other than a family member paid a student-athlete's tuition while he was attending prep school.

They don't necessarily know why these things are wrong. They just know it doesn't feel right, and they can find some obscure rule to support their feelings.

Erick Barkley, St. John's leading player, is sitting on the sidelines again because of the NCAA suits.

He missed two games last month because of the caper involving the sport-utility vehicles. He missed a third game this week after the suits objected to his payment plan when he attended prep school.

If the suits keep delving into Barkley's background, they probably will be able to find even more imaginary infractions.

The NCAA suits have no boundaries, no clue, no business doing what they are doing. They make the IRS look reasonable.

Understandably, St. John's coach Mike Jarvis is outraged by the NCAA suits. He compared them to the Gestapo last month. He also dropped the words "communism" and "rape" on them. He later apologized for his remarks, but his points were duly noted.

After Barkley's most recent trouble with the NCAA, Jarvis said, "I haven't had time to meet with my speechwriter, so I don't have a prepared speech. And after the last impassioned speech I made, after the Boston College game, I probably need to have my stuff proofread."

Jarvis doesn't need to say a thing.

The NCAA suits speak for themselves. They are either un-American or stupid. On second thought, maybe they are both. They are sticking their noses where they don't belong. They are going into people's homes and looking under beds to see if they can find a bogeyman.

They are invading the privacy of families. They are Peeping Toms, only they have the veneer of respectability.

The NCAA's obsession with Barkley is unfair to Barkley and to his family. The NCAA is trafficking in personal areas, letting America know that it is fighting for truth, justice and what appears to be the former East German way.

So Barkley sits, while America assimilates the tiny pieces of information and makes assumptions about the Barkley family, possibly the wrong ones.

The NCAA suits are forgetting a number of elementary principles, starting with due process. The president of St. John's made this point.

"The need for the NCAA or a similar organization is clear," the Rev. Donald Harrington said. "However, the need for appropriate due process and the respectful treatment of all student-athletes is just as clear. These goals are not incompatible."

The NCAA suits rule a player ineligible and think later.

Due process? What's that?

You would think the suits are busy enough tracking the cash being dispatched to recruits in shoe boxes, with academic advisors who ghostwrite term papers for players and with the usual assortment of wrongdoing.

But no, the NCAA also wants to monitor student-athletes before they sign a grant-in-aid with a school and become cash cows. They want to police areas in which they have no jurisdiction.

They want to know about the relationships players have with their AAU coaches or anyone else who might have befriended or influenced them. They also want to know what monies and advantages players might have received as high school stars.

These concerns would be comical if the NCAA suits weren't serious.

This is America, and America loves athletes, winners, the gifted.

Show America a gifted young athlete in need and you can be fairly certain the need will be eased.

The suits know how the game is played. They play the game, too. They live off it, in fact, and live very well.

The NCAA tournament later this month is a major event only because of America's zeal for the games and players.

Of course, the suits do not object to the irrational in March.

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