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NCAA Sued for Barring Coach With Non-Violent Conviction

The National Collegiate Athletic Association was accused of discriminating against black coaches for changing a policy that had allowed someone with a non-violent felony conviction to coach at high school events.

Dominic Hardie, a 35-year-old basketball coach from Houston, filed a complaint today in federal court in San Diego. He seeks a court order preventing the NCAA from implementing the felony-exclusion policy and a ruling that it violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

Hardie said that under a 2011 change in policy, he’s no longer allowed to coach at high school tournaments where the NCAA allows college recruiters to attend.

Hardie, who is black, pleaded guilty in 2001 to possession with intent to distribute less than a gram of cocaine, according to the complaint. He said he received five years of probation and fully rehabilitated himself. He coaches two high-school age girls’ basketball teams that travel to NCAA-certified tournaments around the U.S., he said in the complaint.

“A well-respected coach is irrationally being denied the ability to coach in tournaments that are exceptionally important to his players’ futures,” Hardie’s lawyer, Dan Chambers, said in a statement.

Until last year, Hardie had been able to coach at those tournaments, according to the filing. The NCAA’s 2011 policy change has a discriminatory impact because black people are overrepresented in the criminal justice process, representing 38 percent of the convicted felons in the U.S. while accounting for 12 percent of the population in 2006, Hardie said.

“Our policy has been unsuccessfully challenged in court previously,” NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”

The case is Hardie v. NCAA, 13-00346, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

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