House aims to block NCAA ban

By Courtney Linehan

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Champaign representative Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.) introduced legislation Thursday intending to prevent the NCAA from interfering with the autonomy of its member institutions, Johnson’s office announced yesterday.

House Resolution 5289, called the Protection of University Governance Act of 2006, constrains the NCAA’s ability to use a member institution’s nickname, symbols or mascot as a reason for imposing sanctions against that school. It would allow affected colleges and universities to sue the NCAA, seeking both a court order to stop the decision and damages to cover attorneys’ fees and damages lost from not hosting postseason competitions.

“Local economies across the country would be impacted if the NCAA’s recent decisions are allowed to prevail unchecked,” Johnson said in the press release. “As indicated by the sponsors who have signed on and who will continue to sign on, this is not a Republican grievance or a Democratic grievance. The NCAA’s presumed authority is a grievance against us all.”

Original cosponsors for the bill are Hastert and Johnson – both Republicans – and representatives Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.).

The bill, which was obtained by the Daily Illini, states that regulating intercollegiate sports has economic affects on interstate commerce, and that impressing the governing body’s “view of correct social policy” violates academic freedom.

The bill applies to violations occurring on or after Aug. 4, 2005 – the day before the NCAA announced a policy restricting the use of American Indian mascots, logos and nicknames in post-season competitions. Schools found to be in violation of the policy are prohibited from hosting NCAA championship events, and may not display their “hostile and abusive” imagery when participating in postseason contests at other sites.

One week ago, the NCAA Executive committee ruled that Illinois’ use of Chief Illiniwek is reason enough to prevent Illinois’ athletic teams from hosting postseason competitions. This has already affected the men’s tennis program, which would have been eligible to host regional competition next weekend. The Illini have hosted men’s tennis regionals for the past seven seasons.

“The NCAA was established as a sports management association,” Johnson said. “The organization has since assumed the mantle of social arbiters. They need to go back to scheduling ballgames and leave the social engineering to others.”