UH volleyball coach MIke Wilton hugged player Jake Muise, a member of the 2002 team, after yesterday's news conference to forfeit the title due to an ineligible player.


UH prepares to return its trophy
as the NCAA makes official its
decision to invalidate the
2002 men's volleyball title

NCAA rule at issue

The rule that caused the problem for UH says:

Competition with Professionals: An individual shall not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics if the individual ever competed on a professional team, regardless of whether the individual knew (or had reason to know) that the team was a professional team. (Effective date: Aug. 1, 2002)

It was just another non-event day at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Inside the arena it was dark. Very dark.

No one would be able to tell that the banner from the 2002 NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship was taken down.

But it was gone.

A year and four days after the NCAA first notified the University of Hawaii of a possible infraction regarding the school's first men's national title, the governing body for collegiate athletics made it official.

UH's appeal was denied, vacating the title. The Warriors defeated Pepperdine on May 4, 2002, 29-31, 31-29, 30-21, 30-24, at the final hosted by Penn State.

At the heart of the appeal was the eligibility of Costas Theocharidis, the 2001 and 2003 NCAA Player of the Year. After a year's worth of investigation, the NCAA declared the Greek national ineligible for having competed in a professional league.

The NCAA ruling means that UH will have to:

>> Vacate its men's championship, the first for a UH team sport, and fifth in the sport of volleyball;
>> Return its trophy to the NCAA;
>> Have the team's performance deleted from the NCAA tournament standings;
>> Have Theocharidis return all of the awards he received during the 2002 season (Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, first team All-American, first team All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation);
>> Pay a $5,000 fine to the NCAA (already done).

"It's very frustrating and disappointing," Theocharidis said last night. "I'm very sad and disappointed that the NCAA committee didn't overturn. We were very optimistic because they were taking so long. We just have to move on."

He has denied that he broke any NCAA rules, saying previously that he did not have an agent, did not have a pro contract and did not accept money, as per the NCAA regulations at the time of his UH enrollment.

UH Athletic Director Herman Frazier talked to reporters.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions asked for additional information on at least four occasions regarding the 2002 championship. It had been intimated that the decision would be given following the NCAA final four held last week at the Sheriff Center.

The timing gave the appearance that the NCAA chose to delay the announcement so as not to affect ticket sales last week. As it was, tickets sold for the two-day event were about half of the daily 7,000 the university guaranteed.

"The timing did seem a little obvious," said Warrior coach Mike Wilton. "But like Herman (UH Athletic Director Frazier) said, we all took the delay as a good sign. That maybe they would use this as a precedent-setting ruling on amateur athletics.

"I have no feeling now. All that matters is we won. We've been living with this for almost a year. The only time I've thought about it was when someone asked about it. It's time to move on."

The university was initially notified last May and conducted an internal investigation. The report was sent to the NCAA last June 9 and the NCAA rendered its original decision on Sept. 5, with UH submitting its appeal on Oct. 24.

The secondary infraction revolved around Theocharidis' participation in a pro league prior to enrolling at UH in 1999. The NCAA did not find UH responsible, concluding that the institution did not know, nor could have known, about the infraction until the final investigation findings.

Outside hitter Pedro Azenha from Brazil did sit out four matches during the 2002 season as per the 20 percent rule the NCAA has regarding competing with professionals. Wilton said Theocharidis would have sat out a similar number of matches if the coaches had been aware of the pro-league participation.

"The record shows that our coaching staff and departmental officials implicitly followed the rules, and acted with due diligence in all possible ways," Wilton said. "I would like to express my gratitude to Herman Frazier for spearheading the appeal process, and to Jan Gouveia, Judge Walter Kirimitsu, and the UH legal team for their efforts on our behalf."

The legal cost was estimated at less than $20,000.

Although the banner has come down the team members will be allowed to keep their championship rings, which were paid for by UH.

The trophy, however, is in the process of being returned to the NCAA.

"It made its way downstairs without getting dropped," said Wilton, whose office is on the second floor of the athletic offices. "As for the banner ... I'm going to save it. Hopefully, we'll be able to sew a '5' where the '2' was."


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