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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, August 24, 2003

Chang fiasco could have been avoided

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

The sad thing about the University of Hawai'i losing quarterback Tim Chang for the season opener is that it didn't have to happen.

And, it shouldn't have, either. If the UH athletic administration had done what it was supposed to and, indeed, what it was plainly advised to do a month and a half before the Hawai'i Bowl, Chang would be preparing to pass Appalachian State silly in Saturday's opener.

Instead, because of a colossal miscalculation by somebody in the UH athletic administration, Chang will be benched by an NCAA suspension.

The problem isn't the well-meant but awkward-to-apply WAC certification rule that went into effect last year requiring players to have passed a minimum of six credit hours (basically two classes) in the previous semester in order to be eligible for postseason play. Rather, it is what UH did, or, more correctly, didn't do about it.

Because the semester ended Dec. 20 and the Hawai'i Bowl was played on Dec. 25, UH realized at least as early as Nov. 2, the date it clinched a berth in the bowl, that it might have trouble certifying all its players before the game.

On Nov. 11, six weeks before the game, the WAC office privately and publicly encouraged the UH administration to immediately petition for a waiver of the rule from the conference's council and board of directors. Athletic director Herman Frazier even told The Advertiser in a Nov. 12 story, UH was, "putting a proposal together" to do just that.

Commissioner Karl Benson also said in the same story, " ... it is a timing issue and we will certainly do what we can to work with UH."

The problem was that UH somehow managed to drop the ball, apparently never following through on seeking the waiver.

"I was expecting Hawai'i to seek relief and I would have fully supported their request — had there been one," Benson said this week.

The help was there and all UH had to do was ask. But, for curious reasons known only to itself and yet to be fully explained publicly, UH never did.

Had UH petitioned the WAC membership for a waiver and been rejected, that would have been something else. At least, then, UH could have said it made a good faith effort and exhausted its options. It could have said, "What else did you want us to do?"

Instead, whether through indifference, arrogance or sloppiness, UH apparently did nothing, blowing off the whole rule until after the game was played. Only later apparently did UH realize Chang was ineligible.

Had UH petitioned for and received the waiver, Chang and the school would have been covered. Instead, UH has walked into precisely the type of problems that have followed: a public reprimand and $5,000 fine from the conference in March.

Those, however, were slaps on the wrist compared to what came a week before the opener of its most promising of seasons, when the NCAA followed it all up with a one-game suspension of Chang.

The hope is that the Warriors will answer the challenge of playing without their starting quarterback and won't miss a beat against a Division I-AA opponent.

But the reality is that if the UH administration had been on the ball, none of this would have happened.