University not alone with its neck on the line


POSTED: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

There are some troubling aspects to the Jim Bolla case against the University of Hawaii and it has little to do with the hard charge he took from one of his players.

What happened that day on the basketball court is known by a scant few and they aren't talking publicly, which leaves all involved in a tricky spot. It's easy to hide behind, “;I can't say anything because there's an ongoing investigation.”; It leaves that party with plausible deniability if ever called to the witness stand in a possible court case.

Throughout this eight-month investigation, Bolla was instructed to keep quiet by all parties involved, as story after story broke about formal investigations into alleged transgressions were printed on a regular basis, holding Bolla up to public ridicule.

Granted, this is OK to do in the media realm. We'd call it business as usual. It happens every day to poor schmucks living in the public eye. But this just entered phase two of the operation, where eventually the university could be on the hook for a substantial sum of money. And all because someone with direct knowledge into Bolla's investigations is the likely unnamed source in local news stories.

TAKE A LOOK at this from Bolla's side of the street. If you're him, you're going to want to face your accusers. You're going to want to know who those anonymous sources were who had reporters scurrying to their computers on a seemingly weekly basis.

Because of privacy laws, those involved directly with these separate investigations can't say anything to anyone or run the risk of standing tall before the man. It's a tight circle. Only a few should know what's in the file that led to Bolla's dismissal with cause, allowing the university to skip out on the remaining two years of the contract worth close to a quarter of a million dollars.

The original story was front-page news in the Honolulu Advertiser with the only one confirming there was an investigation was Bolla himself. He was aware of the report, but like UH athletic director Jim Donovan, couldn't comment further. In fact, the only people on the record are sophomore Keisha Kanekoa and former player Shannon Nishi. Neither could have provided the information needed to write this story in the first place. So who did that?

WHEN THE SECOND major story broke in late February that Bolla had allegedly kicked a player, there is no way a responsible newspaper would run that story without some form of collaboration from a reliable source; someone with direct knowledge who says, “;you can't use me, but ...”;

And that's where the university might have a problem. The only people with direct knowledge of the original investigation reported last August are Bolla, the athletic director, those asked to investigate Bolla and the university brass needed to pull the plug on Bolla. This part of Bolla's claim goes directly to his position that the university only used these allegations against him when he demanded that it meet its Title IX requirements.

This phase of a possible trial has nothing to do with whether the players' allegations are true — although Bolla characterizes them in his suit as grossly exaggerated or outright fabrications — rather as part of an elaborate plan to get him fired. Tying that all together might prove difficult, but if anybody rolls on the witness stand — rather than face contempt or perjury charges — it could leave that anonymous source with some explaining to do before the judge or jury issues a verdict.


Reach Star-Bulletin sports editor Paul Arnett at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)