Ruling will benefit
local tourneys

A federal judge reverses
the NCAA's "2-in-4" rule

COLUMBUS, Ohio >> At least for now, the Hawaii basketball team is free to invite Syracuse and Kansas to the Rainbow Classic every year.

A federal judge's ruling yesterday overturned the NCAA rule prohibiting Division I basketball teams from playing in more than two exempt tournaments in a four-year period, limiting the pool of teams eligible for local tournaments.

U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. said the NCAA's restrictions violated federal antitrust laws, and he granted a group of tournament promoters and organizers a permanent injunction.

By limiting which teams could play in such tournaments -- known as exempt events -- the NCAA was creating a "substantial anti-competitive effect," said the plaintiffs' Cincinnati attorney, Bill Markovits.

Markovits said the judge's ruling does not prevent an appeal.

All tournaments that take place in Hawaii, including the prestigious Maui Invitational, are exempt events.

Spokesman Jeff Howard said the NCAA will review the ruling before making any decisions.

"The NCAA thinks the ruling is wrong and it seems that the association through its legislative processes should regulate the season rather than the promoters of exempt contests," Howard said.

After a four-year fight, the ruling was supposed to touch off celebration in local athletic departments. Instead, it is more of wait and see.

"A lot of it depends on what move the NCAA makes," Hawaii associate head coach Bob Nash said. "They can do any number of things to change the ruling, maybe take away the exemption and set a schedule of 30. It has been a long battle, but it's not over yet."

Each Division I school is limited to 28 regular-season games, but a team can appear in more games by playing in exempt tournaments.

Each tournament appearance counts as one game against the NCAA limit, even though a team could actually play in several games.

The suit was filed in December 2001. Sargus turned down the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction in July 2002, saying more time was needed to assess the impact of the NCAA's rule.

Markovits said the rule forced 11 of 28 exempt tournaments, including the Hawaii Pacific Thanksgiving Shootout and Brigham Young-Hawaii's Pearl Harbor Classic, to be canceled last season because there wasn't an appropriate mix of teams.

"What makes these tournaments work is you generally have a mix of majors and mid-majors. It makes them interesting for the fans. You get some upsets. It's almost like a mini-NCAA Tournament," Markovits said yesterday.

Lee Frederick, who runs Hawaii Pacific's tournament and was one of the plaintiffs, is also holding off the celebration until the NCAA makes its move. He says he doesn't believe the NCAA would do anything to stop him from getting the tournament up and running again.

"We are going to try," Frederick said. "If you read the judge's opinion, he is an angry man at the NCAA. If they appeal, he is liable to cut their legs off at the knees."

That would be good news for the Rainbows, whose Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic has seen its field of marquee names dwindle since the so-called "2-in-4 rule" was implemented before the 2000 season.

"Our schedule is set," Nash said. "It's not the greatest field, but we can get to work on getting quality teams back in the Rainbow."

HPU athletic director Russell Dung says that his schedule for 2003 is also set and the ruling came too late for a tournament in 2003. Both Dung and Frederick say the tournament will certainly be held in 2004, with Dung going so far as already reserving the Blaisdell Center for the event.

One roadblock facing the Sea Warriors is that their tournament was decertified last year and they needed to re-apply by June 15, but didn't because the ruling was up in the air.

No matter how the NCAA reacts, Frederick and local coaches count the decision as a win for the little guys.

"We were confused with how the trial was going," Frederick said. "The NCAA has 10-12 lawyers and we are all virgins at this sort of thing, having never been through this, so we weren't sure how it would go. There would be a green lollipop on the desk and we'd say it's green, but the NCAA would have 10-12 lawyers give us 95 reasons why it is red and orange. We thought we were right, and the judge agreed with us."

The Associated Press and the Star-Bulletin's Jerry Campany contributed to this report.


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