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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

UH, BYU fighting over Pula

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The competition for the state's co-Offensive Player of the Year in high school football will go down to the last day.

Last night, running back Mulivai Pula of Kahuku High still could not choose between the University of Hawai'i and Brigham Young University. Tomorrow is the first day high school seniors may sign national letters of intent, and Pula is the state's only remaining top prospect not committed to a college.

"He needs more time," said Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai, who added, UH's offer is "clearly the best offer he's received."

What makes the situation complicated is Pula has yet to meet the academic requirements to play as a college freshman. NCAA eligibility is based on a sliding scale factoring a player's cumulative grade-point average and SAT score.

If a player meets part of the requirements, he can receive a full football scholarship and practice with the team, although he is prohibited from playing in any games as a freshman.

If a players does not meet any of the requirements, he is considered a non-qualifier, and is not allowed to practice with the team, play in any games or receive an athletic scholarship for the first year at a university. He is allowed to apply for financial aid that is available to the rest of the student body.

UH, which has one non-qualifier (junior linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa) and a partial-qualifier (linebacker Tyrone Brown) on its roster, has received special permission from the school administration to admit Pula as a non-qualifier or partial-qualifier.

Yesterday afternoon, BYU president Merrill Bateman approved a special waiver that would allow Pula to enter BYU as a non-qualifier.

"He's trying to figure out the different offers," Livai said. "It's not an easy decision."

Both schools are at little risk waiting for Pula's decision. A non-qualifier does not count against a team's NCAA limit of 25 new scholarships each year. Still, UH has saved a scholarship in case Pula qualifies or is a partial-qualifier.