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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Ruling could give Hawai'i tourneys a lift

Advertiser Staff and News Services

College basketball programs in Hawai'i are among many cautiously celebrating a ruling by a federal judge in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. overturned an NCAA rule prohibiting Division I basketball teams from playing in more than two exempt tournaments in a four-year period.

Sargus ruled that the NCAA's restrictions violated federal antitrust laws. In essence, he said that Division I teams can now play in exempt tournaments every year.

Eight-team tournaments such as the University of Hawai'i's Rainbow Classic have had trouble filling its fields in recent years because of the NCAA's "2-and-4" rule.

UH associate coach Bob Nash, who is in charge of scheduling opponents for the Rainbow Warriors, said: "It's very good news. This opens it up again for teams to travel to events. Now you can try to bring in the high-profile teams like Duke and Kansas every year."

Coaches at Hawai'i Pacific and Brigham Young-Hawai'i — NCAA Division II programs — said yesterday that they were already working on scheduling exempt tournaments for the 2004-05 season because of the ruling. HPU and BYUH canceled tournaments last year because of a lack of Division I teams eligible to participate.

"We secured dates for the Blaisdell (Arena) for 2004," said HPU head coach Russell Dung. "Having a Division I tournament helps a program like ours in so many ways."

The caution comes because the NCAA is expected to make a countermove.

NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard told The Associated Press: "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 added that the NCAA will review the ruling before making any decisions.

The suit was brought by a group of exempt tournament promoters in December 2001. Sports Tours Inc., which represents HPU, was the only Hawai'i promoter legally involved in the suit.

Each Division I team is limited to 28 regular-season games, but an exempt tournament allows a team to count multiple games as one. For example, Butler got to count its three Rainbow Classic games last year as one.

Yesterday's ruling came too late to make any changes for the upcoming season, so only two eight-team Division I men's tournaments will be held in Hawai'i — the Rainbow Classic and Chaminade's Maui Invitational.