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Basketball coaches vow to clean up act

From Associated Press and Staff Reports

ROSEMONT, IL — Division I college basketball coaches agreed to adopt a code of ethics and hope to work closely with the NCAA to change or possibly eliminate some of the rules governing the sport.

Nearly 300 coaches, including East Carolina's Bill Herrion, met for three hours at a hotel convention center Wednesday to discuss the various ethical problems that have plagued college basketball over the last six months.

NCAA president Myles Brand also attended the meeting — a promising sign for coaches who say they have often felt like adversaries of the NCAA instead of its partner.

``It opens up the door for cooperation, revisiting some rules,'' Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. ``Sometimes when we talk about violations, or cheating, or coaches making a mistake — a lot of these things are rules that maybe could be eliminated.''

The mandatory meeting was called by the 18-member board of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was closed to the public. Coaches who didn't attend the session lost the right to buy Final Four tickets.

The meeting was called after a tumultuous year for college basketball that included:

— Georgia and Fresno State declaring themselves ineligible for postseason because of rules violations.

— Players at St. Bonaventure refusing to finish the season after it was discovered a teammate was improperly admitted to the school.

— Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy stepping down under pressure after it was found he partied with students after road games.

— A player at Baylor charged with murdering a teammate, and former coach Dave Bliss trying to cover up alleged NCAA violations by telling assistant coaches and players to lie and say the slain player had been dealing drugs to pay for school.

After the meeting, coaches offered few specifics of what was discussed. They characterized the session as an exchange of ideas.

They did agree to ``customize a code of ethics'' for their basketball programs, and said they would provide the NCAA recommendations on stiffer penalties for secondary recruiting violations. They also authorized the basketball coaches ethics committee to devise a plan to deal with poor behavior.

However, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the most significant outcome of the conference was the presence of Brand and his vow to listen to coaches on how to solve college basketball's woes.

``Being able to have a partnership with the NCAA gives us an opportunity to revisit and look at some certain rules,'' Krzyzewski said. ``I'm not going to go into individual rules. We talked about some things that we think can help coaches and help our game.''

Brand, who has been president of the NCAA for just under a year, praised the coaches for coming together to discuss the problems of the past year. He also said he genuinely believed the coaches want to do their part to clean up college basketball.

``Two days before practice starts, 300 Division I head basketball coaches came together,'' he said. ``This doesn't happen often, if ever, in the past. This was an important event.''

The NABC also announced plans for a five-session professional development program for all Division I assistant coaches. The program will be held at the NABC convention at the Final Four in San Antonio in April, and will cover recruiting rules, diversity, character issues, ethics and morals.

Although attendance was mandatory, a few coaches were no-shows. One of those was Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight.

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, who spoke to the assembled coaches, said Knight was one of the few men who likely didn't need to attend the meeting.

``If anybody could afford not to be here, it's Bobby Knight,'' Thompson said. ``He's a lot of things, but he's not someone who's not concerned about this game. Just because he was not here does not mean that he will be inactive for the cause.''

02.23.07 11:03 AM

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