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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Diligence a UH must in foreign influx

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist

The University of Hawai'i-Manoa's most recent national championship banner, still waving in the Stan Sheriff Center rafters, may hang in the balance while the NCAA Infractions Committee finishes its review of a men's volleyball eligibility violation.

Meanwhile, new, more stringent eligibility standards, expected to take their biggest toll on international players, are becoming the rule for the coming school year.

So, with all of that hanging over its head, there has naturally been a chilling effect on the recruiting of foreign athletes at UH, right?

Hardly. The number of international athletes is expected to be at an all-time high when the fall semester begins Aug. 25, and climb further in the spring, UH officials said.

That can be, as we have seen, either a blessing or a curse for UH teams, depending upon what they do with the opportunity.

With the right players and the correct approach, it can be a competitive boon for UH. But mishandled, the land mines lurk.

With more than 20 percent of the athletes who receive scholarships at UH likely to be foreign passport holders this year, there is the potential for either in Manoa.

Those kind of numbers are no small feat considering football gives out 85 scholarships and just one is earmarked for a foreign player, Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan, according to a UH spokesman.

But seven of the 9.9 scholarships that go to men's swimming could be held by international athletes and six of the 14 that go to women swimmers and divers could be similarly awarded, UH says. Then, there are 12 of the 18 that go to women's track and field and cross country and ...

Well, you get the idea. "Our numbers are (growing) in spite of the obstacles," said Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, UH associate athletic director.

On the plus side, international players can be a huge boost for several sports. In the so-called Olympic sports — tennis, swimming, volleyball, track and field, etc., — especially, there is a lot that can be gained from players with international experience. They can supply the kind of talent, maturity and experience UH might be hard-pressed to find otherwise.

But, there are potential pitfalls, too, that come with going the international route. The NCAA is tightening the rules and slamming shut the loopholes. With its stands on tennis and basketball, the NCAA has served notice that it is taking a closer, more exacting look at foreign players.

The schools that continue to recruit them had better know and painstakingly observe the rules.

The pending volleyball case is Exhibit "A" of what can happen when something is missed.