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Saturday, September 6, 2003



[ UH VOLLEYBALL ]


art
STAR-BULLETIN / APRIL 2002
Costas Theocharidis was a four-time All-American for Hawaii.


UH relieved
by one aspect
of ruling

Frazier is glad the NCAA
did not determine that there is
a lack of institutional control
at Hawaii


"Institutional control" is the scariest two-word phrase for college athletic directors everywhere. It travels often with that other nasty pairing, "NCAA investigation."

It's the one that's been bandied about at Alabama the past several years, and recently at Baylor.

Issues like sexual harassment, illegal player payments and murder are obviously more serious than the question of player eligibility for competing among professionals. But, still, both combinations of dirty words came up yesterday at Hawaii's news conference announcing the NCAA's stripping of the Warriors' 2002 volleyball national championship.

UH athletic director Herman Frazier was visibly relieved that the NCAA had determined -- and he could announce -- that its investigation did not find a lack of institutional control. The NCAA found Hawaii guilty of a secondary infraction because star volleyball player Costas Theocharidis played 22 games among pros in his native Greece.

While Hawaii lost its only national championship in a men's sport and was fined $5,000 (pending appeal), in a sense UH got off lightly.

No one was found at fault, except Theocharidis. Because the four-time All-American's playing career is done, he couldn't be banned from future games. And UH did not have to forfeit any games except for the 2002 title game.

"An institutional control violation comes with bigger sanctions. Always primary," said UH lawyer Jan Gouveia, who worked with Frazier and the NCAA on the issue. "To some degree we don't know how much latitude the NCAA really had. We are the groundbreakers in this new territory."

Unfortunately, player eligibility issues are not new territory for UH.

Several Hawaii athletes have been suspended mostly because of prior participation in professional events:

>> Junior quarterback Tim Chang was suspended from last Saturday's season-opening football game against Appalachian State. Chang was sidelined because he played in the Hawaii Bowl while academically ineligible. UH was also fined $5,000 by the Western Athletic Conference.

>> Volleyball freshman Pedro Azenha missed the first four matches of the 2003 season for competing in an international tournament.

>> Former basketball standout Predrag Savovic was suspended for seven games in 2001 for playing against pros in Europe. Freshman Tony Akpan missed his first 15 games, also for eligibility issues.

>> Freshman basketball center Haim Shimonovich missed 22 games in 2000-01 for playing among professionals in his native Israel.

Frazier said the cumulative effect of the prior violations does not add up to a lack of institutional control.

It may have more to do with the NCAA's enforcing an existing rule, UH interpreting what the term "professional" meant, and the NCAA clarifying its own definition -- the only one that counts in this case.

Could it all have helped lead the NCAA to decide to take away the volleyball title?

Frazier, who came aboard after Hugh Yoshida's retirement in August 2002, declined to speculate on that.

"We deal with each issue on an individual basis and we are in compliance and will continue to be in compliance with NCAA rules and regulations for our program, our fans, and each and every one of our student-athletes," Frazier said.

Gouveia said UH is taking strong steps toward more clearly determining the eligibility of international athletes, including continual updating of questionnaires used during the recruiting process.

"We have taken the issue of amateurism so much more seriously than other institutions," she said. "I personally have gone through great lengths to assure compliance. I feel very comfortable from an institutional control issue."

Frazier said UH will also require that foreign club teams verify all prior participation of athletes before they enroll at UH.

"The system's not broken," Frazier said. "The thing is people need to pay more attention to what's on the forms. We have meetings of all teams and compliance people before every season."


Timeline of Events

2000

January 13
Costas Theocharidis plays his first match as a University of Hawaii volleyball player. Later it is determined he played 22 matches among professionals in his native Greece before enrolling at UH.

2002

May 4
The Hawaii men's volleyball team beats Pepperdine 29-31, 31-29, 30-21, 30-27 at Penn State for UH's first national championship in a men's sport. Theocharidis, a junior hitter, is named Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Finals.

August 1
The NCAA clarifies its rule about competition with professionals.

2003

May 7
UH receives notification from the NCAA of a possible infraction and begins an internal investigation, "which revealed evidence of an infraction regarding eligibility of a men's volleyball student-athlete," according to a UH release yesterday.

July 9
UH forwards the findings of its internal investigation to the NCAA.

July 15
A Star-Bulletin report identifies Theocharidis as the UH player being investigated.

Yesterday
Athletic director Herman Frazier announces Hawaii's men's volleyball national championship of 2002 has been stripped by the NCAA and UH is fined $5,000. UH -- or any individuals other than one unnamed student-athlete (Theocharidis) who played 22 games among professionals -- are not found responsible for any other infractions. Frazier says UH will appeal. UH officials say the player in question was asked several times if he played among professionals, and was "less than forthcoming."


Questionnaire

The following questions are from the NCAA's "Amateurism Questionnaire" that has been distributed to potential University of Hawaii international student-athletes since the NCAA provided the form July 23, 2003. Other versions of the questionnaire were used in the past:

1. Did you receive any money above expenses for your participation on any of the teams mentioned?
2. Did any members of your team receive money above expense for their participation on any of the teams on which you participated (e.g., salary, bonus)?
3. Did you sign any type of agreement to participate on any of the teams mentioned above?
4. Did any of the teams you participated on call themselves professional?
5. Did you have a written or verbal agreement with an agent or agency to represent you while you were participating in athletics?
6. Have you or any of your family ever accepted any benefits from an agent or anyone associated with an agent?
7. Have you ever accepted any benefits not listed on this form from anyone other than your parents?
8. Have you ever been involved in an advertisement or promotion?
9. Have you ever accepted any prize money based on your place finish for your participation in athletics?
10. When did you turn 21? Please list below all athletics activities you participated in after your 21st birthday.


The following questions are from the NCAA's "Questions to send an international team," which UH uses now to confirm a foreign players' amateur status:

1. What is the official name of your team or organization and in what city is its central office located?
2. Does your team, league or organization recognize itself as professional?
3. Do athletes affiliated with your team/organization sign player contracts? If so, could you please attach a sample and a copy or (insert SA name's contract or agreement?
4. How many teams are directly or indirectly sponsored by your organization? Please name them:
5. Is any team within your organization a member of a playing league that is supported directly or indirectly, or sponsored by a team that recognizes or markets itself as a professional league or team?
6. Do any athletes on (insert team name) receive any kind of payment, directly or indirectly from a professional team or league for his or her participation?
7. Does (insert SA name) receive or has (insert SA name) ever received, direct or indirect salary, gratuity or comparable compensation for his or her participation on (insert team name)? If so, please identify amounts and figures.
8. Please provide an exact and detailed list of any type of compensation (insert SA name) received while participating on (insert team name). (This list may include travel expenses, educational expenses, housing, payment for playing, cash advances, meals, loans or use of credit cards.
9. Does the (insert team name) consider itself to be a professional (insert sport) team?
10. Did anyone on the (insert team name) receive more than actual and necessary expenses?
11. Did (insert SA name) receive educational expenses from the (insert team name)?
12. How many games did (insert SA name) compete in for the (insert team name)?
13. Did (insert SA name) receive benefits based on his or her team's place finish or other competitions?
14. Did (insert SA name) participate in any promotion sponsored by any team or league? If so, was he or she provided any monetary or other benefits (i.e., prize money, trips)?
15. Did (insert SA name) sign a contract with your team? If so, please provide a copy and list whether the contract outlines any incentives or bonuses for participation.
16. Did (insert SA name) receive housing, meals, transportation, medical expenses and/or other accommodations from the team or league?
17. Did (insert SA name) receive a stipend?
18. Has (insert SA name) agreed, either orally or in writing, to be represented by an agent?
19. Please list any other (insert sport)/league with which (insert SA name) has participated.
20. Is your team part of any scholarship program?
21. Does the team recognize itself as a semi-professional or professional team?
22. Does the team market itself as a semi-professional or professional team?
23. Does the team participate in a league that recognizes or markets itself as a semi-professional team.
24. Does the team receive financial support or sponsorship from any team or organization that recognizes or markets itself as a professional team or organization?
25. Does the playing league in which the team participates receive any financial support or sponsorship from a team or league that recognizes or markets itself as a professional team or organization?


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Warriors say recent events
can’t dilute championship
experience


The 2002 NCAA men's volleyball championship banner remains hanging from the mauka catwalk of the Stan Sheriff Center, a sign of the school's first men's national title in a team sport.

It might not be there for long, depending on the outcome of UH's pending appeal of yesterday's stripping of the championship because of star player Costas Theocharidis' eligibility issue.

If it does come down, Tony Ching said, nothing changes.

"The championship feeling will always be there," said Ching, who was a junior on the 2002 team. "They (the NCAA) can have a piece of cloth if that makes them happy."

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, the Warriors get to keep their championship rings. If the appeal is denied, UH must return the championship trophy.

Athletic director Herman Frazier has not decided if coach Mike Wilton must return the $5,000 bonus he received for his team winning the title. There will be no other internal reprimands or penalties, as Theocharidis was the only person found at fault by the NCAA (the body's investigation determined that there was no way UH officials could have known Theocharidis played 22 games among professionals in his native Greece).

Senior libero Jake Muise said yesterday's announcement only gives the Warriors another reason to shoot for a championship this season.

"I remember last year being announced at the start of games and seeing that 2002 national championship banner and it giving me more motivation," Muise said. "When it disappears it will be twice as motivating. We're going to replace it."

The Warriors players were told of the NCAA's decision to take away the title in a team meeting yesterday morning.

"I was absolutely shocked," said sophomore Matt Bender, who redshirted during the national championship season. "You work so hard for something like this. It hurts. We'll see how the appeal goes."

Most of the players from the championship team don't have the opportunity to get back on the court and play for another title.

"But the thing they'll get to keep is the experience," assistant coach Tino Reyes said. "They can lose the banner and the official title, but they'll always have the experience."

Fred Parker, treasurer of the men's volleyball booster club and president of the women's team's booster club, said the banner should remain where it is.

"Until it's official, it should stay up," Parker said. "It's not the integrity of our program that's at stake, it's the integrity of the NCAA."

Basil Sparlin, president of the men's volleyball booster club, expressed similar sentiments.

"I think the university should fight this. It's a major disappointment to see this because of the interpretation of the rule.

"If it's true that the rule is being re-interpreted after we won the championship, I don't see how the NCAA can rule this way at all. But the NCAA has never been known to be the most logical organization in the world. We'll see what happens."

Wahine coach Dave Shoji -- whose team hosted Baylor last night -- instructed his players yesterday not to talk to the media about the decision.

"I have no comment," Shoji said. "I'm just like everyone else. My opinion doesn't count."

It seemed that the general opinion about the well-liked Theocharidis did not change among his Warrior teammates and coaches.

Head coach Mike Wilton, assistants Reyes and Aaron Wilton and Theocharidis' former teammates all said he is still part of their family -- although the university said Theocharidis was "less than forthcoming" about his experience of playing with professionals, which caused the investigation.

Theocharidis is in Hawaii, but was unavailable for comment yesterday. He opted not to attend yesterday's news conference where the NCAA ruling was announced.

Ching hasn't seen Theocharidis lately, but would like to get together with him.

"I would just talk to him about life and how things are going," Ching said. "That's my friend, family -- forever. Those four years, we spent bleeding, sweating, working hard together. That's how I feel about all my teammates.

"This is just trivia."


UH-Manoa required
to vacate championship

Editor's note: The following was released by the NCAA to the media yesterday.

INDIANAPOLIS >> The NCAA has informed the University of Hawaii-Manoa, that the Association has vacated the men's volleyball team's championship win and the team's place in the final standings in the 2002 NCAA Division I Men's Volleyball Championship because of the use of an ineligible student-athlete.

The record of the team's performance in the championship must also be deleted and the team's trophy, as well as individual awards received by the ineligible student-athlete, must be returned to the Association. Hawaii must also pay a fine in the amount of $5,000 to the Association, which will be used to fund student-athlete welfare programs.

The University of Hawaii-Manoa, was made aware of a possible infraction in the men's volleyball program by the NCAA enforcement staff. The institution subsequently conducted an internal investigation and self-reported the violation to the NCAA.

In accordance with NCAA procedures, the institution has 30 days to appeal these actions to the full NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions.

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