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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

UH didn't meet WAC bowl rule

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The University of Hawai'i did not comply with a Western Athletic Conference rule when it failed to certify the academic eligibility of any of its players for last week's ConAgra Foods Hawai'i Bowl.

For postseason bowls, the WAC, of which UH is a member, requires league schools to use only players who have earned at least six credits during the fall semester.

UH officials notified the WAC on Dec. 23 — two days before the Warriors were scheduled to play in the Hawai'i Bowl — that they could not determine if their players met the WAC requirement because the school's fall semester ended Dec. 20 and it would take at least a week to receive final grades.

"Our grades weren't posted," UH athletic director Herman Frazier said.

He said it was a moot point because none of UH's players, "to my knowledge," would have been ruled ineligible.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson empathized with UH's situation, adding, "We've understood for the past month that Hawai'i may have had difficulty in processing the required academic information."

But despite strong suggestions, UH did not request a waiver to the rule. By the time UH officials contacted the league office, there was not enough time to rule on the matter. The WAC Council, comprising of the athletic directors of the 10 league schools, would have to vote on the waiver. Benson declined to comment on whether the league considered issuing pre-bowl sanctions against UH.

"Our member institutions are obligated to comply with NCAA rules, WAC rules and institutional rules," Benson said.

He added: "There was an expectation (UH officials) would comply."

Benson said he would "not speculate" on whether UH will be sanctioned for breaking the rule. He said he expects the WAC Council to review UH's case, as well as the rule in general.

"I don't think anybody questions the intent of the rule," Benson said. League members "believe it's a good rule. It may need some fine-tuning."

But Fresno State coach Pat Hill objected to what he felt was the inflexibility of the rule. FSU's fall semester ended Dec. 19, and, Hill said, "if we played Dec. 25 (like UH), 33 of our players would be out of the game."

Hill said his staff scrambled to certify 84 players, even though final semester grades would not be posted until next week. Seven Bulldogs failed to meet the WAC requirement and will not play in today's Silicon Valley Bowl. Of those seven, five were ruled ineligible because they received "incomplete" grades. Hill said FSU's request to allow exceptions for "incompletes" was rejected.

"An 'incomplete' doesn't mean you failed the class," Hill argued. "If you failed, you would get a failing grade."

Hill said defensive end Nick Burley was ruled ineligible because he had three incompletes. Hill said Burley's professors agreed to an extension and when Burley "makes it up, he graduates. Yet, he can't play in this game."

But Benson said FSU's situation is not "material" to UH's. Boise State and FSU both play today, and "they were held to the same rule. (But) they had more time to obtain the academic information that Hawai'i did."

That, Frazier said, is the key. "The difference is when your finals are finished and when your bowl is scheduled," Frazier said.