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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 6, 2006

Warrior walk-ons must hit the books

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Strong safety Michael Malala is eligible to receive a football scholarship from the University of Hawai'i, and not just because he has ascended to the first team during spring practice.

Malala qualifies under head coach June Jones' new policy in which only walk-ons with a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.5 are eligible to be placed on scholarship. Malala's GPA is about 3.2

Jones implemented the policy after the Warriors lost five scholarships for failing to meet the NCAA guidelines monitoring eligibility and enrollment. The NCAA formula the academic progress rate awards points for each semester a player remains at a school and in good academic standing during a rolling two-year period.

During Jones' first seven years as UH head coach, scores of players who entered the program as walk-ons have been awarded scholarships. Six former UH walk-ons went on to play in the National Football League.

"Things have changed," Jones said of his decision to implement the new policy. "If the walk-ons want to earn a scholarship, they have to have good grades. Otherwise, it's not worth it to put them on."

The 2.5 minimum GPA is higher than the eligibility standard of 2.0 required by the school and the NCAA.

"It's penalizing some kids, that's for sure," Jones said. "That's life in the fast lane."

"It's a good rule," said running back Jazen Anderson, who enrolled at UH in January as a non-scholarship player. "It puts pressure on guys who might slack off. It makes you strive to work hard. I'm averaging Bs in my classes, so I'm not worried about it."

Quarterback Colt Brennan, who led the nation in passing as a walk-on last season, also embraced the concept.

"It's reasonable," said Brennan, who has a B average and was awarded a scholarship in January. "It sucks when the scenario comes when you have a great guy who deserves it but he gets a 2.3. But the standard it sets is good. It makes people really achieve and work hard. We need it. It hurts us when guys come here and don't do well, and we lose scholarships because of it."

Assistant coach Rich Miano, who coordinates the walk-on program, said a 2.5 is "very feasible." Freshmen are required to attend two-hour study halls three times a week. The athletic department also has a tutoring program. The UH coaches monitor attendance every day.

"With all of that, they should at least maintain a 3.0," Miano said. "I'm all for anything to make these kids realize the importance of an education."

Malala said he did not need a new policy for motivation.

"If I get an F," Malala said, "my family would get on me."

PADS WERE POPPING

The Warriors resumed practicing on their grass field yesterday, and for the first time this spring, worked out in full pads. Because of recent rain, the Warriors practiced at Les Murakami Stadium on Monday and Tuesday.

"It felt good to go out there and really go 100 percent," linebacker Adam Leonard said. "It was nice to let out some of that pent-up energy out."

The contact drills were important in evaluating fringe players. Jones said he will "trim 30 or 40 guys" from the active roster after spring training.

NCAA rules limit teams to 105 players for training camp in August. "We're bringing in 30" new players, Jones said.

Jones said he is distributing the work evenly.

"We give everybody a chance," he said. "Nobody can say they didn't get a fair chance."

Jones withheld the offensive starters at the six ball-handling positions from full-contact drills yesterday.

"We could hit everybody who didn't start (on offense)," defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said.

Glanville said the first- and second-string defenses were effective.

"I wasn't pleased with the hitting on Team 3," he said. "Team 3 has to hit like Team 1 and Team 2. Team 3 was too much powder puff. You don't have to watch the hitting, you need to hear it. With Team 3, I didn't hear the hitting, and that's disappointing. If I can hear it, I know they're doing what we want."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.