Wilkins changes UH plans

The former All-American pitcher now says she will not return after the Olympics

By Cindy Luis

It's one arms race that the University of Hawaii has apparently lost.

All-American softball pitcher Brooke Wilkins, who hurled the Wahine program into national prominence in 1994 and '95, has decided to remain home in Australia and not return to school for her final two years. At least that's what the pitcher for the Australian Olympic team has indicated through her mother and a faxed letter to Wahine coach Bob Coolen.

"She's not coming back," Wilkins' mother, Barbara, said in a call from the family home in Sydney. "There's so much more for her here (at home) now."

Brooke Wilkins has been at the Olympic training camp in Cairns and is expected to return to Sydney tomorrow. Coolen said he hopes to speak with his star pitcher tomorrow, something he has been unable to do, with her out of town.

"That fax was quite a bomb," said Coolen, who was vacationing on the mainland when the fax was received by the softball office. "I got a letter in May from her, asking for classes to be chosen and about housing. I had absolutely no idea that she was going to drop a bomb three weeks later, that she was not coming back.

"It was a total surprise because she had FedEx'd her scholarship renewal just weeks before the fax. We'd taken care of everything, her classes and housing. I am totally confused."

Coolen said Wilkins' decision is prompted by the monetary incentives offered by the Australian Olympic Committee to the country's athletes. A gold medal reportedly is worth $25,000, money that could not be accepted under NCAA regulations if Wilkins wanted to retain her amateur status.

"My major concern is of a financial nature," Wilkins said in her fax. "With a receipt of an Olympic medal, I would be financially advantaged if I return to Australia."

"Everything revolves around her receiving monetary compensation," said Coolen. "If Australia doesn't win a medal, Brooke may have a change of heart and come back. Personally, I don't think the team is going to have the success Brooke thinks they're going to have."

Wilkins had plenty of success on U.S. diamonds. In two seasons, the two-time Big West Pitcher of the Year went 58-16 with five no-hitters, 32 shutouts, 585 strikeouts and a career ERA of 0.68.

As a freshman, she was named second-team All-American. A year later, she become the first Wahine to earn first-team honors.

Hawaii advanced to the NCAA regionals for the first time ever in both of Wilkins' seasons. The Wahine were 36-25 without her last year, and were not invited to postseason play.

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