Friday, March 17, 2000
to drop suit
They contend they wereBy Pat Bigold
denied berths in the championships
due to irregularities in times
and Debra Barayuga
A suit against the NCAA by 13 University of Hawaii swimmers will be dropped, but not without rancor.
The swimmers, whose teams have been unbeaten for two years in a row, contend that they are being denied berths in the national championships because the NCAA is conducting a vendetta against their outspoken head coach, Sam Freas.
State circuit court judge Gail Nakatani yesterday denied an amended request for a temporary restraining order against the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships, due to begin Thursday in Minneapolis.
The women, whose NCAA meet began yesterday in Indianapolis, Ind., were denied a similar injunction request on Wednesday.
"The matter is over as such because our intentions to go to court were purely to find justice, and not to seek damages," said team captain Simon Thirsk, a backstroker who served as spokesman for the swimmers.
At the heart of the issue was the NCAA's surprising action to disqualify the times of 13 UH male and female swimmers in 22 events in the national championship meets. Freas was notified by the NCAA of the disqualifications on March 6, a day after the swimmers' names were posted as qualifiers.
The disqualifications reportedly were based on irregularities in recording the originally accepted qualifying times.
But Thirsk and his teammates said they think the NCAA is trying to get at Freas through them.
Thirsk called it "professional jealousy" over the way Freas has rapidly developed the Hawaii program into a winner.
"He came out of retirement to coach and within one year, he changed the program from unranked to No. 19,'' said Thirsk. "This year, we're going for Top 10. "Other coaces don't like that.''
Eddie Lovell, a disqualified 50-meter freestyle swimmer, said he believes certain members of the NCAA swimming hierarchy feel threatened by Freas.
A release issued by Thirsk referred to Freas's successful objection to the use of questionable equipment at last year's NCAA championships. The equipment was ultimately removed.
"They don't want issues to ever be raised, and he has challenged a lot of guys on the board," said Lovell. "So they're out to get Sam any way they can and that happens to be through his athletes."
The UH swimmers' alternate times, which they say would also meet qualifying standards, are not being accepted by the NCAA.
Thirsk said UH has had to use an alternate method of timing due to problems with the electronic pads at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex pool. Although the NCAA prefers other methods, the UH procedure is not grounds for disqualification.
"The way we have all qualified is accurate and conforms with all standards of qualifying in any organization,"said Thirsk.
"They're getting us on technicalities - they know how fast we are but they don't want us at the meet,"said Lovell.
He bemoaned the fact that his parents have already made reservations for Minneapolis and bought $90 pool passes for the entire NCAA championships.
"I have to call my parents now and tell them I'm not going," said Lovell, who is from Florida.
"I'm very upset, very angry, very sad," said Melanie Bauder of Bakersfield, Calif., the only senior among the five disqualified Wahine. "I've never heard of such a thing to be uninvited after you've been invited."
Thirsk said that there is some consolation for him and several teammates.
The NCAA will allow him to compete in the 200-meter backstroke, while the UH 4x50 medley relay and the 4x50 freestyle relay teams are also expected to compete.
That would mean six UH men (Thirsk, Nick Folker, Pedro Frerreira, Dave Jenkins, Louis Rojas and Raymond Darling) will go to Minneapolis.
But Thirsk and Folker said they are worried. They fear the 4x50 freestyle team will be disqualified when it arrives in Minneapolis for the same reasons the other times were thrown out.
"Maybe a complaint will come from nowhere about us, like the others have," said Folker.
"But we're definitely going to go," said Thirsk.
Ka Leo O Hawaii