Blowing whistle right call
Under the best of circumstances, the University of Hawai'i women's basketball team has a daunting task opening its Western Athletic Conference season at Fresno State tomorrow night.
The Rainbow Wahine are, after all, 3-10, and the Bulldogs, at 10-4, are the defending champions and co-favorites.
But Hawai'i head coach Jim Bolla's role in a simmering controversy that has cost Fresno State its All-WAC Tournament point guard, Emma Andrews, for this season and three games of the next one figures to turn up the heat.
This is their first meeting since the NCAA penalized Andrews for participation in a semi-pro league in her native Australia, and Bolla's decision to come forward with what he knew will not earn he or his team many favors tomorrow or in the longer term.
Which is why you have to salute the guy on principle and guts.
Say what you will about where the sliding Rainbow Wahine program is or Bolla's coaching style — and we have — but on this one give him credit for making the hard and correct call.
Tomorrow, he is in precisely the kind of sticky situation that you suspect a lot of coaches shy away from when faced with the decision of whether to confront a conference opponent with an eligibility issue.
Indeed, in this case the expedient thing for Bolla to do would have been to sit on it, as it appears other coaches might have. Andrews' absence hardly portends a UH victory and it is a long shot to expect the Rainbow Wahine to unseat Fresno State as WAC champs.
Which makes his decision to come forward on a couple of levels all the more remarkable.
Bolla has declined to comment on the case and Fresno officials did not answer some questions posed by e-mail. But we're told Bolla has claimed to have given Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins a heads-up on Andrews' participation in seven games over two seasons with the Dandenong Rangers of the Women's National Basketball League well before the NCAA learned of it.
Signing with a pro team, even one managed by your mother and ostensibly for babysitting purposes while declining pay, travel or expenses is a violation, the NCAA determined. FSU said Andrews did not consider the participation "significant or official" and did not disclose it on her NCAA forms.
When nothing came of the initial call, Bolla apparently went elsewhere. Later, he cooperated with an inquiry, and the Bulldogs, for the second time in three seasons, have been sanctioned for an ineligible player.
Whatever happens on the court against Fresno State, Bolla got this one right.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.