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NCAA won't overturn text messaging ban on recruiting

INDIANAPOLIS -- College coaches must keep recruiting the
old-fashioned way -- for now.

The NCAA's board of directors took no action Thursday toward
overriding a text messaging ban it approved in April, simply
sending it back to the membership for another vote at January's
annual NCAA convention. Until then, the rule that went into effect
Aug. 1 will remain in place.

"The proposals were discussed in April and the board of
directors followed the advice of student-athletes that text
messaging be eliminated,'' Division I vice president David Berst
said. "I think even then the board realized there might be a
better solution than elimination, but we haven't seen any yet.''

At least 30 schools must request an appeal in writing to force
the committee to reconsider.

The 18-member committee then has three options: To affirm the
original decision, sending it back to the membership for another
vote while the rule remains in place; overturning the ruling,
wiping it off the books completely; or approving an emergency
amendment to change the rule and possibly push back the date for
implementation.

It takes a simple majority to overturn the ruling, but the
committee took no vote and sent it to the full membership.

There is precedent for overturning board rulings at the
convention. It has happened twice since 2006, when the NCAA adopted
a new appeals process. But schools also voted four times not to
change the rules.

When the ban was approved in April, the board
uncharacteristically indicated it was willing to reconsider the
issue possibly next year. Several proposals are being drafted,
Berst said. One would allow coaches to text message
student-athletes after they've signed a national letter-of-intent,
but Berst wasn't sure that would be a good enough compromise.

"I think we're looking for a better answer than that,'' he
said.

Many football coaches and assistant basketball coaches balked at
the original decision.

Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches
Association, was the most outspoken opponent. He said he had not
met with any of committee members but did send a letter expressing
the group's opposition.

Jim Haney, Teaff's counterpart at the National Association of
Basketball Coaches, remained neutral as the debate heated up this
summer, in part because a fall survey of coaches showed nearly a
50-50 split on the issue.

Proponents of the ban, including the Student-Athlete Advisory
Council leadership, argued the cost was too prohibitive to recruits
and that coaches sent so many messages it bordered on an invasion
of privacy.

The board did approve a proposal changing the seating
configuration for the Final Four.

Beginning in 2009, the court will move from the football field's
end zone to the 50-yard line with new temporary seats filling in
the vacancy around the court.

Senior vice president Greg Shaheen said it would be a first-of-its-kind project and would not resemble what he described as the
postage stamp-type seating in place for the 1968 game between UCLA
and Houston at The Astrodome. Instead, he said it would create more
of an arena environment in the dome stadiums.

It also will raise seating capacity to about 70,000 at each
Final Four site and allow the NCAA to do something it has long
desired -- put students near courtside for the games at a minimal
cost. Student vouchers are expected to cost about $15 to $20 for
each of the two days, and about 1,000 students from each school
will be placed in the four corners of the arenas.

The first test will come at regional sites in Detroit and
Houston next spring. Detroit will host the 2009 Final Four.

"Students have not been this close to the court for 20 years,''
Shaheen said. "We think it will produce the much-needed college
atmosphere at these games that we've been talking about since we
moved to the dome sites.''

Shaheen estimated it would cost the NCAA about $3 million to
purchase the seats, which will then be used in each dome selected
for the Final Four.

The board also approved a four-year moratorium on adding more
Division I schools.

Next year, there will be 331 schools competing at the Division I
level and Berst said 23 more are being grandfathered in. But the
board wants a committee to establish new Division I standards
before approving any more applicants.

"We've seen a continuing desire to move to Division I and we
just think it's time to stop and vette that process and take a look
at the impact of growth,'' Berst said.

The Division III President's Council also agreed to co-sponsor
legislation that limits the use of male athletes at women's teams
practices. No more than half of the starting squad, or three
basketball players, could consist of men at any time.