In August 1979 UNLV was restored to the full rights and privileges of NCAA membership after satisfying the penalties imposed by the association's Committee on Infractions. With a record of 23-9 for the 1979-1980 season, UNLV's basketball team advanced to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), where it finished in fourth place. The following season was the weakest of Tarkanian's career at UNLV with a record of 16-12, but the Rebels bounced back in 1981-1982, ending the regular season with a record of 20-10 and advancing to the second round of the NIT. The Rebels record improved to 28-3 in 1982-1983, on the strength of which the team advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
In 1984 UNLV recruited Dr. Robert Maxson from the University of Houston to serve as its new president and hopefully create for the school a reputation for academic excellence that would rival its glowing reputation as an athletic powerhouse. Although both Maxson and Tarkanian at first made an effort to get along, eventually the two clashed, particularly after Maxson forced Brad Rothermel to resign as athletic director and replaced him with Dennis Finfrock, no fan of Tarkanian.
Although his conflict with the NCAA continued throughout Tarkanian's tenure at UNLV, it seemed to have little effect on his effectiveness as a coach. The Rebels finished the 1983-84 season with a record of 29-6 and advanced to the third round of NCAA tournament. The following season, UNLV made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a record of 28-4. In 1985-1986, the team finished the season with a 33-5 record and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tourney. Tarkanian's team returned to the NCAA Final Four at the end of the 1986-1987 season, during which it compiled a record of 37-2.
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