Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Hawaii can learn
a lesson from Fresno

THE innocent bystanders otherwise known as the 2002-03 Fresno State basketball team should at least be allowed to make one last stand, to go out swinging in the WAC tournament.

That is my opinion. The conference's presidents apparently saw things differently, hastily putting together a new rule especially for this set of circumstances, specifically for Fresno State, effective immediately.

And perhaps UH should sit up and take notice at this turn of events.

Now, Tulsa, Hawaii, Boise State, they make runs in certain years in respective sports. They can all make nice claims as conference leaders. But the Bulldogs are the WAC's big dogs. Poster boys. In football. In basketball. On ESPN (though it seems that UH is closing fast here, too).

And yet the rest of the pack didn't hesitate to take Fresno State down a notch when it suited the other schools' own personal needs. When they got their chance.

Now, first, let's be clear about a couple of things. This mess at Fresno State is on another level. NCAA investigations. Academic fraud. A street agent. Bad, bad stuff.

And, make no mistake, this was most certainly the smart thing to do, for the other schools. For the rest of the WAC.

But not necessarily the right thing to do.

They didn't have to make this decision, to hurriedly enact this new rule, to exclude Fresno State. But they chose to. In this instance, when it came down to it, there were no friends for the guys with the bad reputation.

That's where UH comes in.

Yes, Hawaii is certainly approaching the Bulldogs for the overall conference lead in exposure and success, but if it is not careful, perhaps in resentment, too.

There have been a few feather-ruffling vibes out of Manoa in recent years, words, deeds, attitudes that could, at times, be perceived by some as arrogance, defiance, disdain when it comes to Hawaii's place in the WAC.

There have been the offhanded, back-handed comments that, printed on the mainland, might be taken the wrong way (or, perhaps, taken the right way).

There has been the football swagger that has become notorious for earning unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and once spilled over into a much-publicized brawl that resulted in no apologies. Only misplaced pride.

And of course there was UH flouting the conference's bowl eligibility rule, while other schools reluctantly stayed on the safe side and kept uncertified players out of their final games.

That did not go over well.

Now, none of this in any way, shape or form has anything to do with FSU's recently unearthed challenges with integrity.

But the Fresno State situation, this exclusion by its peers, getting kicked out of the club for the conference tournament, offers Hawaii a lesson here.

You can be the cream of the conference. But don't forget the masses. Because when the worm turns, it turns hard.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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