Man sues NCAA to coach in high-profile girls basketball tourney in San Diego

Suit says NCAA rule regarding ex-felons is unfair

SAN DIEGO - A girls basketball coach barred from a high-profile tournament in San Diego is suing for the right to coach in the event.

On YouTube, there are highlights of the MSNM Western Tournament held in San Diego in 2012. The Triple D Hoops team from Houston did not have their head coach for the tourney, but this year, Dominic Hardie hopes to be there and he's going to court to make it happen.

"He's done everything to lead a good life, and yet he is being penalized," said Jane Dolkart, senior counsel with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit legal group that filed suit in San Diego on behalf of Hardie, who coaches two girls basketball teams in Houston.

For many of his girls, the San Diego tournament at the Town and Country Hotel and Alliant University serves as a key event for college recruiters and is looked at as a chance at scholarships and college.

Hardie was banned from this and similar events after a 2011 NCAA rule that bars all ex-felons from coaching in NCAA-certified basketball tournaments.

"It rejects any notion of rehabilitation," said Dolkart.

In 2000, Hardie received probation for a possessing less than a gram of cocaine.

Since then, he's stayed clean, returned to college and became a social worker.

For many years, he was able to coach at NCAA events because coaches were allowed to have non-violent felonies older than seven years.

Then the rule changed.

The lawsuit alleges the NCAA policy and the tournament held in San Diego are discriminatory and violate the Civil Rights Act.

Hardie's attorneys say higher arrest rates for minorities means the NCAA ban unfairly impacts minority coaches and the athletes they are coaching.

"It's simply unfair to treat someone who made a mistake as if they are a pariah," said Dolkart.

In a statement, the NCAA said, "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."

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