Hawaii men’s team ordered to vacate 2002 NCAA National Championship

Hawaii men’s team ordered to vacate 2002 NCAA National Championship

Miazga, Mike

The gavel came down about as hard as it could on the University of Hawaii men’s Volleyball program.

The NCAA recently announced Hawaii has been ordered to vacate the 2002 NCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship for the use of an ineligible student-athlete during the 2002 season.

That student-athlete has been confirmed by numerous Honolulu media outlets as 2003 AVCA National Player of the Year Costas Theocharidis, the first four-time first-team All-American in men’s Volleyball in AVCA history.

Hawaii officials and players have declined to reveal who the player in question is. However, the personable and popular Theocharidis did confirm to one Honolulu newspaper that he was the player under investigation.

“Everybody knows who it is. We’re just not supposed to mention who it is,” said one university employee familiar with the case.

When contacted by Volleyball via his cellphone recently, Theocharidis declined to elaborate on the situation.

“I don’t think I should make any comments,” said Theocharidis.

The crux of the violation centers around Theocharidis having played with professionals in his native Greece prior to enrolling at Hawaii in 1999. School officials said an investigation revealed no evidence suggesting he accepted money, retained an agent or had a signed professional contract with a pro team.

However, according to the NCAA, by playing alongside professionals, Theocharidis forfeited his amateur status in accordance with Article, “Competition With Professionals.” That revised rule went into effect Aug. 1, 2002.

Hawaii defeated Pepperdine in May, 2002 to win the NCAA Championship, earning the school its first-ever national championship in a men’s sport.

“The player in question, to be honest, wasn’t forthright at first to us about having played in 22 matches with professionals as a young kid out of high school,” said Hawaii men’s coach Mike Wilton. “He didn’t sign a contract, he didn’t have an agent and he didn’t take money. But he did play with professionals. He has admitted his error. He’s very contrite about it. He feels horrible.”

In addition to vacating the national championship and the team’s place in the final standings of the 2002 National Championship, the record of Hawaii’s performance in the championship must also be deleted and the team’s national championship trophy, as well as any individual awards received by the player in question must be returned to the NCAA. Those sanctions are outlined in NCAA Article (b), “Team Competition.”

The school, which was also fined $5,000, planned to appeal the decision to the Full NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions. That committee was scheduled to meet Oct. 10-12 and again Dec. 12-14.

Hawaii officials said the NCAA, which through a spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics of the case, classified the infraction as a secondary offense and did not hold the university or its representatives responsible since it was concluded that it did not know and could not have known about the infraction until the investigation was complete in June.

Hawaii was made aware of a possible infraction by the NCAA enforcement staff. Hawaii subsequently conducted an internal investigation and self-reported the violation to the NCAA.

“It seems to me that the penalty doesn’t fit the crime,” said Wilton. “I never really believed that taking a national title away would be something that would happen. We go the extra mile to obey the rules here. The NCAA deemed this a secondary offense and it seems like they applied a major offense penalty. I’m very grateful that the university is behind us 100 percent and has promised not to leave any stone unturned in the appeal process.”

Wilton said the player in question has shown great compunction concerning the recent turn of events.

“He’s expressed extreme remorse to me,” said Wilton. “He’s human and he made a mistake. He always has been and always will be a valued member of our Volleyball family. Nobody is holding him in blame.”

Hawaii’s players also did not waver in their support.

“Our teammate in question is still our teammate and we still love him,” said former Hawaii outside hitter Tony Ching in a statement released through the school. “The experiences we enjoyed and the friendships we made along the way are most important to us. The members of the men’s volleyball program at UH will stick together as it always has in any other difficult situation.”

Copyright Ashton International Media, Inc. Nov 2003

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