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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

No red tape to stop Hakala

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

For Lauri Hakala, it was easier to become a starting University of Hawai'i volleyball player than a UH student.

It took Hakala, an outside hitter from Finland, 10 matches to break into the Warriors' lineup. It took more than a year for him to meet the NCAA requirements to enroll.

"I didn't think it was going to happen," said UH associate coach Tino Reyes, the point recruiter.

Hakala, who will start in tomorrow's road match against top-ranked UCLA, is the test case in the aftermath of the sanctions leading to the stripping of the Warriors' 2002 national title.

The NCAA had ruled that four-time All-America outside hitter Costas Theocharidis had forfeited his amateur status when he played on a professional team in Greece before enrolling at UH in August 1999. Theocharidis, who works as a wealth manager in Manoa, told The Advertiser he did not receive money from that team.

"Costas thought a professional is somebody who gets paid," Reyes said. "Most people think that way, except for the NCAA. The NCAA says if you play with professionals, you're a professional."

Because of that ruling and subsequent sanctions against UH, Reyes said, "we couldn't afford to have something like that happen again. It was like, 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.' "

Hakala is a 2001 graduate of Pieksamaen Lukio high school. He played two years for a Finnish amateur team before meeting a "friend of a friend" of UH assistant coach Aaron Wilton. Theocharidis also was a member of a club team when a friend recommended him to the UH coaches.

Hakala said he was confident his amateur status would be upheld.

"The Finnish league is an amateur league," he insisted. "My club had 10 students and a couple of guys who worked. It's all voluntary stuff."

Daniel Arakaki, UH's compliance coordinator, reviewed documents from Hakala's club.

"Even then, I wasn't sure," Reyes said.

The document were forwarded to the NCAA for verification.

Because Hakala was 22 when he enrolled at UH in August 2004, he lost a season of eligibility and is listed as a first-year sophomore. According to NCAA rules, an international player's eligibility clock triggers after his 21st birthday.

"I'm happy to be playing," said Hakala, who replaced struggling Jose Jose Delgado at the passer/outside hitter position. "Now I'm looking to starting my first road (match)."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8051.