National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Tarkanian

PETITIONER: National Collegiate Athletic Association
LOCATION: Checker Gasoline Station

DOCKET NO.: 87-1061
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Nevada

CITATION: 488 US 179 (1988)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1988
DECIDED: Dec 12, 1988

Rex E. Lee - on behalf of the Petitioner
Samuel S. Lionel - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Tarkanian

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1988 in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Tarkanian

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Number 87-1061, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Jerry Tarkanian.

Mr. Lee, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Rex E. Lee:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, the question in this case is whether the National Collegiate Athletic Association's enforcement of its own standards, among its own members, is state action for Fourteenth Amendment and Section 1983 purposes.

In the early 1970's, the NCAA began an investigation of certain alleged practices at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, some of which involved its basketball program.

As is the case with all NCAA investigations, the primary responsibility for the investigation rests with the University, and both the University and the Association conducted their own investigations.

The Association's counsel ultimately affirmed some 38 of its Infractions Committee's findings of violations, 10 of which involved the Respondent, who had become the head coach after the time that the Association first received complaints about UNLV.

As part of the prescribed remedy, UNLV was directed to show cause why three persons should not be suspended from coaching and any involvement with intercollegiate athletic activities.

Those three persons were the former head coach, the Respondent, and an assistant coach.

As for the former coach, the suspension was to be permanent, and as to the other two, the suspension was to be for two years.

William H. Rehnquist:

The suspension from what, Mr. Lee?

Rex E. Lee:

From coaching, and from all involvement in booster activities and other intercollegiate activities.

It would not have affected his University appointment.

William H. Rehnquist:

So the NCAA said in effect to UNLV,

"You must suspend so-and-so for a certain period of time? "

Rex E. Lee:

Not quite.

What it said was... it was an order to show cause why they should not do so.

And that is an important point, actually, Mr. Chief Justice.

Pursuant to that order to show cause, the President of the University assigned a Vice President as hearing officer, who held a hearing and then as a result of that hearing identified for the President three options that were available to the University, and according to the Hearing Officer's recommendation, those three options were the following:

The first was that the university could impose the recommended discipline, which would involve the two-year suspension.

A second was to refuse to do so, and according to the Hearing Officer, this ran the risk that the NCAA might impose other sanctions, some of which might be more severe.

And the third was to withdraw from NCAA membership.

Faced with those choices, the University opted to impose the suspension, which has never been carried out, because of an injunction which was ultimately affirmed by the Nevada Supreme Court, whose state action holding is now before this Court for review.

The Respondent does not contend... nor could he... that the NCAA itself is a governmental entity.

Rather, his argument--

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Lee, did the injunction run against he NCAA, as well as against UNLV?

Rex E. Lee:

--It ran against UNLV.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, then how did NCAA get in the case?

Rex E. Lee:

Initially, they were not.

The case went up to the Nevada Supreme Court a first time, and the Nevada Supreme Court held that the NCAA was an indispensable party... so it was back, the NCAA was joined, and then it went up a second time.

And the Nevada Court made that at the instance of the Association?