The Hawaii basketball team has been cleared by the NCAA to play in the postseason, the collegiate governing body announced this morning.
UH had waited nervously as the Big West tournament crept closer — but now the Rainbow Warriors (14-14, 8-7 BWC) will be playing in Anaheim, Calif., next week.
Their regular-season finale is Saturday at Long Beach State. The eight-team Big West tournament begins on March 9 at the Honda Center. UH will be the fourth or fifth seed in defending last year’s tournament championship.
“The first thing, I’m really excited for the players to get the opportunity to play in postseason,” UH athletic director David Matlin said in a phone interview. “I think they’ve had a great season and I think they deserve it. Couldn’t be prouder of the leadership on the basketball team which starts with Eran (head coach Ganot) and all of his coaches. So I’m excited for them because at the end of the day that’s what it’s about. I’m pleased and happy about the decision.”
The team heard the news just before boarding a flight from Sacramento, Calif., for Los Angeles.
“It was a special moment to gather (the) team in airport before we boarded to let them know — they deserve it,” Ganot texted the Star-Advertiser just prior to takeoff. “Been saying this along the way — so proud of our entire team for how they have handled this. Would have felt that way regardless of outcome. Can’t deny (how) good that moment felt though for a lot of reasons.
“When I say entire team — I mean department, admin, UH, state,” he added.
In its release, the NCAA stated:
“The University of Hawaii, Manoa, will not have to serve a men’s basketball postseason ban, according to a reconsidered decision issued by the Division I Committee on Infractions. The university’s probationary period was also reduced from three years to two, and the men’s basketball scholarship penalty was changed from two scholarship reductions to one over each of the two years.”
Per a UH spokesperson, the basketball team will have its full allotment of 13 scholarships restored for 2017-18 because of the scholarships it’s withheld between this season and last season.
The COI’s initial set of sanctions was announced on Dec. 22, 2015, centered on violations committed by the staff of former coach Gib Arnold beginning in 2011. UH, which fired Arnold prior to the 2014-15 season, appealed its penalties in early 2016, arguing that more lenient penalties should be applied because they were excessive and that most of the violations occurred under a former NCAA penalty structure.
The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee sided with UH’s appeal in a decision on Oct. 28, kicking a final ruling back to the Committee on Infractions.
The COI, in its reassessment, said it used the appropriate penalty structure because most of the violations occurred after Oct. 30, 2012, when its new system was implemented. Time, however, was ultimately on UH’s side.
“However, the panel determined that the passage of time from when the school filed its appeal to when the Infractions Appeals Committee issued its decision was a mitigating factor for the university.”
It continued: “The panel changed the case from a Level II-Aggravated case for the university to a Level II-Standard case and reassessed the penalties to determine whether they would be more lenient under the former or current infractions structure. The current penalty structure was found to be more lenient due to the change in case classification. Therefore, the panel reduced the scholarship penalty and probation, and eliminated the postseason ban.”
Matlin said, “Glad to bring this chapter to a close. I think we’ve made mistakes. I think we’ve addressed them, and continue to look at how we can improve in the future.”