Thursday, June 15, 2006

Shifting sands 

The University of North Dakota got permission from its board of higher education to sue the NCAA over the mascot issue.

[North Dakota Attorney General Wayne] Stenehjem described the decision as an edict delivered by an NCAA committee that used constantly changing standards in deciding which colleges could continue using nicknames of American Indian origin, and which could not.

An NCAA executive committee "decided, more or less by fiat, that some institutions were going to be subject to this rule, and some institutions, for reasons that are not understandable, were exempted," Stenehjem said.

The NCAA's constitution requires that major decisions be approved by two-thirds of its college membership, and no vote was ever taken, Stenehjem said. He said the NCAA's action violated its contract with its members.

"This was done, not by policy, not by established process, but mostly by press release, and by press releases that were constantly shifting sand, so nobody knew what was expected of them," the attorney general said.

The article indicates that the lawsuit will be paid for by private donations. I bet this raises a good bit of money for the university. Did the NCAA realize the cause celebre it was handing the school? As to whether it voted or not on the issue, the timeline I was working from said it got recommendations from a subcommittee and then "the executive committee" made the statement. As far as I can see, it relied on a feeling that this was not a "major decision". Todd Zywicki noted last year that Florida State was going to try for the lawsuit based on breach of contract before it was granted exemption -- it appears that UND will try the same thing.

(h/t: Fraters.)