No. 1 BYU the latest
under investigation

It joins Hawaii and Lewis as
a subject of an NCAA probe

The ripple effect continues.

Top-ranked Brigham Young has become the third men's volleyball program in the past eight months to be investigated by the NCAA over use of a foreign player.

BYU joins Hawaii and Lewis, winners of the past two NCAA titles, as programs under scrutiny. Hawaii has appealed the NCAA decision to strip the school of the 2002 title, a decision announced Sept. 5, and continues to provide information for the ongoing investigation.

UH has been asked on at least three occasions for more documents concerning All-American Costas Theocharidis, who played 22 matches on a professional team in his native Greece. The contention has been that Theocharidis, while playing with pros, did not sign a contract, have an agent nor receive money.

Officials in the UH athletic department have been told a decision would be forthcoming within a few weeks each time after supplying additional information. However, UH athletic director Herman Frazier said his last meeting with the NCAA was in February and there has still been no decision on the appeal.

"We've had ongoing dialogue with the NCAA," Frazier said yesterday. "We have provided them with additional information on three or four occasions. When we met with them in February, they said they'd rule in three weeks."

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions also met with Cal State Northridge and Auburn during that time over violations in their men's basketball programs. On March 30, Northridge was placed on three years' probation for multiple violations that included academic fraud; no ruling has been delivered on the Auburn case.

The situation with BYU is completely different than that of Hawaii and Lewis. Lewis held out All-Americans J.R. Martins, a senior setter from Brazil, and junior hitter Gustavo Meyer of Mexico this season over eligibility questions similar to Theocharidis'.

The BYU case centers on freshman hitter Victor Batista from the Dominican Republic. On Thursday, Batista sat out the match at UCLA, a victory that clinched the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season title for the Cougars, who have won 21 consecutive matches.

According to a report in the Daily Bruin, the UCLA student newspaper, the NCAA suggested to BYU that Batista be held out "as a precautionary measure while his eligibility was reviewed." The questions are over Batista's age, which is not listed in the BYU media guide, and whether he has played professionally using another name.

UCLA coach Al Scates said that it was UC Santa Barbara coach Ken Preston who turned in information to the NCAA, questioning the amateur status of Batista.

Hawaii coach Mike Wilton, who has spoken with Preston, had also questioned Batista's listing as a freshman (since changed to sophomore) when the Cougars played the Warriors last month. The playing eligibility clock begins once an athlete reaches his or her 21st birthday, which led to the NCAA also investigating BYU senior Joe Hillman.

Hillman, who will turn 28 in June, served a two-year church mission when enrolled at Utah Valley State College. He played four years for the club team at UVSC, although the NCAA has ruled that only two years count against him because they came after he turned 21.

The contention by several MPSF coaches was that Hillman is being allowed six years of eligibility. However, the NCAA ruled otherwise.

"There is so much tumult in the sport right now," Wilton said. "I wish BYU would educate everyone as to how they got two more years for the guy (Hillman).

"If they (the NCAA) don't fast-track this and BYU goes on to win the championship, then has it pulled, that would make three years in a row the title is in question. The last thing they need is for this to happen again."

There is speculation that the NCAA is taking its time in the Hawaii and Lewis decisions as part of a broader ruling regarding amateur status. For example, an amateur golfer is allowed to play in a pro-am and receive a sponsor's exemption while retaining amateur status.

"I'm not sure what they're thinking," Frazier said. "But I think they're leaning toward a level playing field for all sports.

"They've changed rules before. It was a recent change in the NCAA manual that allowed us to appeal their penalty. Before, it was a done deal. Now they have provided us a wonderful opportunity to continue providing information for the appeal."


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --