Local hoop tourneys
await fate

The 2-in-4 rule goes to court
again tomorrow in Ohio

Organizers of preseason college basketball tournaments -- including the Rainbow Classic and those hosted by local Division II schools -- are turning their attention to an Ohio courtroom this week, hopeful that the shackles of the NCAA's "2-in-4" rule will be removed.

A hearing to decide whether to keep the rule in place begins tomorrow in Columbus, Ohio, before U.S. District Court judge Edmund A. Sargus.

The measure, implemented in 2000, limits schools to two appearances in certified tournaments over a four-year span, leaving schedule-makers with little to work with in the final two years of the cycle.

"That's why a lot of these tournaments are watered down or folding up, because there's not enough teams out there to participate," said Hawaii associate coach Bob Nash, who handles the Rainbows' scheduling.

"Our (Rainbow Classic) fields have gone from Duke and Kansas and all those schools to getting whoever you can get."

A group of tournament promoters sued the NCAA last year, but their request for a preliminary injunction was denied by Sargus. The judge said there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove the rule violated antitrust laws. But he also wanted to wait a year to determine the impact of the rule in the second half of the cycle before ruling on a request for a permanent injunction.

The rule resulted in the elimination of 11 tournaments, including two local events last year. Brigham Young-Hawaii's Paradise Jam Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific's Thanksgiving Classic were canceled when organizers couldn't fill the tournament fields.

UH has also seen the pool of top-drawer programs eligible to participate in the Rainbow Classic dry up over the last two years.

"It's been a struggle to get teams out here," Nash said. "Teams want to come, but they can't come because they're locked out. There's not a whole lot you can do."

Lee Frederick of Milwaukee-based Sports Tours International, which operated HPU's Thanksgiving Classic until last year, is part of the plaintiff group and said the number of certified tournament games is down 43 percent from the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

"All we're going to do is present (Sargus) with the facts," Frederick said. "The proof is in the numbers."

Chaminade coach Aaron Griess said the Maui Invitational, which is hosted by the Silverswords, has also seen a slight dip in its fields lately. But the event has been able to avoid the plight faced by other tournaments, thanks in part to its television deal with ESPN.

"The Maui Invitational could survive with the current legislation of the 2-in-4," Maui Invitational chairman Wayne Duke said. "But elimination of the 2-in-4 rule would certainly help many other competitions of this nature and would conceivably help us as well."

Frederick said he's optimistic the outcome of this week's hearing will be in the plaintiffs' favor this time around, and he's hoping for some closure to the issue after butting heads with the NCAA for more than a year.

"We've fought the fight and I really believe we have a great case," he said. "I just hope it ends one way or another. ... It's been an ugly ordeal. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone."

Notes: The UH coaches are waiting to receive signed contracts from invited schools before announcing the 2003 Rainbow Classic field. The 40th annual tournament is set for Dec. 27-30. ... UH head coach Riley Wallace said a decision on whether or not to participate in ESPN's Bracket Busters event next season could come next week. The Rainbows defeated Kent State in the inaugural Bracket Busters Saturday last season. ... SLAM Magazine named UH recruit Jake Sottos to its list of the top 10 junior college players in the nation. Sottos was the captain of the Southeastern Community College (Iowa) that won the JUCO national championship last season.


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