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Nonprofit group sues NCAA over rule barring of felons from coaching AAU teams

Feb 14, 2013, 3:08 PM EST

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In recent years the NCAA has attempted to take some steps in cleaning up grassroots basketball (at least on its end).

Prohibiting college coaches from attending spring and summer events that aren’t sanctioned by the NCAA during open recruiting periods, and requiring participating teams to be registered with the NCAA in order to compete in such events are two examples of the new legislation.

Another rule that was put in place was the decision to ban convicted felons from coaching sanctioned grassroots basketball teams. But after Dominic Hardie was denied the certification needed due to a nonviolent drug conviction that occurred more than a decade ago, a nonprofit group filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Diego on Wednesday.

Hardie filed suit in hopes of being able to coach his girls basketball team in San Diego, and the suit claims that the rule violates the Civil Rights Act and “disproportionately affects minority coaches.”

Hardie is seeking a preliminary injunction to allow him to coach in an upcoming game in San Diego. His legal team, which includes the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the new policy has a chilling effect on minority coaches.

The original NCAA policy was to allow convicted felons who were seven or more years removed from their conviction to coach, but the governing body changed the rule in 2011. Those sanctioned events are the only opportunities in which players can play in front of college coaches during the spring and summer months, a timeframe that has become increasingly important in the recruiting world.

However despite the lawsuit the NCAA seems to be confident that its rule will be upheld, as noted by NCAA VP of communications Bob Williams in a statement released on Wednesday.

“Our policy has been unsuccessfully challenged in court previously. We continue to believe convicted felons should not have access to youth at events where NCAA coaches are participating, and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit.”

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

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