NCAA, NIT end fight over tournaments

Updated: August 16, 2005, 6:25 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NCAA and the National Invitation tournaments have settled their differences, likely ending a civil trial in federal court in which the NIT had claimed that the NCAA was trying to put it out of business, lawyers announced Tuesday.

A jury that had been listening to NIT witnesses and evidence in Manhattan was sent home for the day by U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum after lawyers said a deal had been struck to end the dispute. At stake was the multibillion-dollar revenue of college basketball.

"We anticipate a complete resolution of the entire litigation," NIT lawyer Jeffrey Kessler told Cedarbaum. "We reached an oral agreement on all the principled terms, but it is complex so we are going to spend today writing it all up."

Kessler asked the judge not to dismiss the jury before the end of the day in the "very small chance that something happened to crater the settlement."

Details of the settlement were not immediately announced, but the judge indicated that the preseason NIT tournament was "probably the biggest bargaining chip."

An NCAA spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call for comment. Lawyers on both sides did not immediately return telephone calls for comment.

Kessler, in his opening statement two weeks ago, said the NCAA "deliberately set out to get a monopoly, to eliminate competition, to make it impossible to compete."

He argued that a long-standing NCAA rule requiring schools to accept invitations to its tournament over invitations to all others had severely damaged the NIT, which began its postseason tournament in 1938, one year before the NCAA Tournament started.

The NIT is sponsored by the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association, which consists of Fordham University, Manhattan College, St. John's University, Wagner College and New York University.

NCAA lawyer Gregory L. Curtner told the jury that the NCAA was made up of 1,024 schools, including the schools that sponsor the NIT tournament.

He said the NIT damaged itself when it agreed in 1962 to let the NCAA choose teams for its tournament first.

He said the rule requiring member schools to accept an NCAA Tournament invitation over all others "has never had any impact in fact in the real world up to the present time. Zero, none."

Curtner said the rule was left in place to prevent the chance that anyone would pay a lot of money to two of the top teams to abandon tournament play and join a made-for-television special.

The trial featured videotaped testimony from Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight, who said the NCAA had created a monopoly.

"I have felt as long as I have been in coaching that the NCAA has wanted to eliminate the NIT," the Hall of Fame coach said. Knight coached at Indiana University for 29 years until he was fired in 2000 by Indiana's president, Myles Brand, who now is president of the NCAA.

A retired Hall of Fame coach, Lou Carnesecca, testified Monday that he was told he was not allowed to choose other tournaments over the NCAA Tournament. He said he had never actually read the rule.

The longtime St. John's coach went 526-200 in 24 seasons, all of which ended with postseason appearances -- 18 in the NCAA Tournament and six in the NIT.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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