The fate of some 200 collegiate hockey players, including six Harvard students, will be decided this week by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The NCAA has set up a three-man subcommittee under the direction of Stan Marshall, South Dakota Athletic Director, to review the cases of those Canadian and American players who acknowledged on a recent NCAA "Ice Hockey Questionnaire" that they participated in Junior A hockey in Canada or received some kind of money for participating in hockey programs before coming to NCAA member colleges. In either case, the players fall under the head of professionalism.
The association's rules currently ban all Junior A players, as well as lower level players who received expenses while participating in the program, from competing in intercollegiate athletics.
The six players who fall into this category at Harvard for one technical reason or another are Randy Roth, Steve Janicek, Kevin Burke, Steve Dagdigian, Mike Leckie and freshman Ken Farrish.
Though the final decision belongs to the NCAA, the consensus among the players and others involved in the controversy is that the subcommittee's findings will result in a waiver for the players, allowing them to finish their collegiate careers.
"Everybody in the East is optimistic," Janicek said Sunday night. "They just can't stop us from playing."
But many have expressed uncertainties about how the always unpredictable NCAA will react to the situation. Though it would seem somewhat ludicrous to many to declare 200 players ineligible, wiping out most of the major NCAA teams, there are still doubts as to whether or not the committee will rule in favor of the players.
"I certainly hope that this whole thing will be resolved," Harvard hockey coach Bill Cleary commented, "but you never know what the NCAA is going to do. They don't go according to the game plan all the time."
The eastern players involved (excepting freshmen) have been granted waivers from the minor violations by the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, which is totally independent from the NCAA though most of its rules parallel the national association.
The waivers resulted from a controversial suit brought by two former Boston University students, Bill Buckton and Peter Marzo, who were declared ineligible to play for B.U. in the spring of 1973 because they had played in Junior A hockey before entering B.U. and accepted necessary expense monies from the teams while attending high school.
The pair, represented by attorney Gordon A. Martin, obtained a restraining order allowing them to play during the 1973-74 season. After a courtroom trial at the season's end, the players got the ECAC as well as the University to enter into a Consent Decree granting them permanent eligibility.
The decree also said that the ECAC must apply this Buckton-Marzo standard to all sophomore, junior and senior players in the conference.
The NCAA, however, did not go along with the agreement. The NCAA decided to review individual cases involving players it might consider "professionals" because of their high school affiliation with Canadian Junior A hockey.
Martin predicts a lot of trouble for the NCAA if it decides to declare the questionable. Martin's case is still open and pending before the NCAA and possibly the cases of the players at Massachusetts schools.