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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

NCAA directors table eligibility proposal

Advertiser Staff

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors yesterday "tabled" a proposal that could have made a significant impact at the University of Hawai'i.

The proposal, which was recommended by the NCAA Management Council earlier this month, involved the recruiting of athletes who play on professional or club teams prior to enrolling at a NCAA Division I program.

Many of UH's athletic teams feature international players who participated with club teams prior to enrolling at Hawai'i.

"I think it's a good sign that they tabled it," UH men's basketball coach Riley Wallace said. "It shows that they didn't like the proposal."

Under the proposal, athletes who participated in one year of organized competition after high school would lose one year of collegiate eligibility. Athletes who participated in more than one year of organized competition after high school would be ineligible to participate in NCAA athletics.

In effect, the proposal meant that athletes could not play more than one year of organized or club athletics after high school.

However, the Board of Directors sent the proposal back to the Management Council yesterday for "further work," according to Brit Kirwan, chairman of the Board of Directors. The Management Council will meet again in August to discuss the issue again.

The UH men's basketball team finished 27-6 last season with a roster that featured seven international players. Under the proposal, seniors Predrag Savovic and Mindaugas Burneika would have been ineligible because they both played more than one year of club basketball before enrolling at UH.

Several European players from the UH men's volleyball team would have also been ineligible.

"For some of these guys, club ball is the only option they have after high school," Wallace said. "And most of them aren't making any money, so they should be allowed to play (in the NCAA)."

Students who sit out more than one year after high school but do not participate in organized athletics would not be affected by the proposal.

Defining professional teams

In a related issue, the NCAA Board of Directors approved a new definition of a professional team as "one that provides any of its players with more than actual and necessary expenses or declares itself as professional."

Many European club teams would qualify as professional under that definition.

"The vote at the Management Council about professional teams was clear, but the intended impact on eligibility will be discussed further during the Council's summer meeting," Kirwan said. "Because the organized competition rule could result in unintended consequences, tabling the proposal until we receive more guidance from the Management Council appeared appropriate."

In another issue, the Board of Directors adopted a proposal that allows prospects to enter a professional draft and be drafted without forfeiting college eligibility as long as they do not sign with an agent or sign a professional contract. For example, if a prospect expects to be a first-round draft pick but is selected in a later round instead, that prospect can opt to return to college.

The rule would also apply to high school students who enter the NBA Draft.

Also yesterday, the Board of Directors approved a recommendation to expand the women's softball championship tournament from 48 to 64.

The Board also proposed a resolution for academic reform to be studied by the Management Council later this year.

Among the highlights of the plan was developing a method to measure academic progress for all collegiate teams, and then creating a system that would reward teams making significant academic progress while punishing teams that do not demonstrate academic commitment.