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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, March 18, 2000

Not the splash
swim team wanted

SWIMMING used to be so an uncomplicated sport. You jump in the water, try to get to the other end of the pool faster than the next swimmer and that's it.

Nowadays, timing is everything.

That's why the entire University of Hawaii swimming scene the past week was such an embarrassment.

Right or wrong, the NCAA had its reasons for not accepting the qualifying times for the Rainbow swimmers to the national championships now under way in Indianapolis for the women and in Minneapolis next week for the men.

So in this litigious society of ours, the only way to settle it is by suing somebody, right? So 13 Rainbow swimmers did.

It made for a cute headline: "UH swim suit decision doesn't fit." It also made for a lot of chagrin.

I'm glad that the UH swimmers decided to drop the suit against the NCAA. It wasn't going to get anywhere.

Instead, they should be asking why this whole screw-up happened in the first place.

To say that the NCAA denied them the chance to compete because of a vendetta and professional jealousy against Rainbow swim coach Sam Freas is absurd. If anything, the NCAA couldn't care less.

Although, in fairness to Freas, the NCAA's swimming selection committee might have wanted to give him a little come-uppance, according to one UH athletic official.

Some of the times submitted and how they were recorded proved unacceptable to the NCAA. Not that there were any figure-fixing on Freas' part. Just how they were arrived at.

The swimmers paid a steep price. But they shouldn't blame the NCAA, which, for once in this case, isn't a four-letter word when it comes to the University of Hawaii.

Like all sports, the buck stops with the head coach. He's the one who's ultimately accountable. With all his years of experience, Freas should have known better.

Freas came to town two years ago with the promise of putting UH on the collegiate swim map, that the school would make waves.

His swimmers made quite a splash last year, finishing 19th in the NCAA championships.

The latest notoriety, however, wasn't what people quite had in mind.

It was simply a bad situation all around, especially embarrassing for the university, which has invested more than $500,000 and 23.9 scholarships (14 for women) for the sport.

The only thing left, in terms of redemption, is for the Rainbow men's two relay teams, which qualified for the nationals, to kick butt with a clocking better than they've recorded. That might validate the times that the NCAA had questioned.

IT'S OVER BEFORE IT'S OVER: My chances in America's favorite office pool, the NCAA basketball tournament, took a severe first-round jolt.

While some of the guys in the office, including former sports editor Joe Edwards, were going around saying that they correctly picked 23 out of 24 first-round winners, I could only mumble about my five losers, most notably Fresno State.

I know, I went with my WAC-ky heart instead of my head. So did Edwards, apparently. It was his only miscue.

"I should have known that any team that had to go double-overtime to beat Hawaii couldn't beat a Big Ten team," he groused.

Well, at least my Four Final picks - Duke, St. John's, Michigan State and Stanford - all survived.

Surely, the Blue Devils - my choice to win it all - can't blow their next game tomorrow against Kansas, could they?

Still, Kwon's "Kiss of Death" can be potent stuff.

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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