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The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled Tuesday that the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s men’s basketball staff violated several NCAA rules in recent years, including falsifying admissions forms for an international student who did not meet the financial requirements to obtain a visa.
The NCAA stated that it believed many of the violations occurred because of a tense relationship between the head coach and the university's director of compliance. The report described the relationship as "being nearly dysfunctional" and "overshadowed by an ongoing personality conflict."
In a statement Tuesday, the former head coach, Gib Arnold, criticized the university for not fighting back against the charges and sanctions. Arnold was fired by the university last year.
“I think the university sent the wrong message to the players and the public by lying down without a fight,” Arnold said. “While it helped them to oust me, it does harm to the program. We teach the kids to never give up, to fight on against the odds and to stick up for and stand by one another. I lived by that example, and I think the players can take heart from that.”
In the fall of 2013, an international student applied to the university hoping to transfer there to play men’s basketball. As part of the application process, the athlete was required to complete a form that indicates whether the student has the means to support himself -- at least $5,000 of financial support -- if he is admitted to the university. The amount listed on the form was about $2,000, according to the NCAA’s report.
The student’s uncle pledged an additional $1,000 in support, but that still fell short of the amount required to obtain a visa. The Office of Student Affairs also notified an assistant coach that it never received the transfer student’s scholarship paperwork, meaning the student was unable to receive a scholarship and must demonstrate that he had financial support to cover the university’s full cost of attendance, as well.
A few days later, the office received a faxed copy of the form. Where the uncle had originally written $1,000, a four had been added to make the amount appear as $41,000. The assistant coach told the office that the form was submitted by the student’s uncle, but the office noted that it had been faxed from a hotel in California, in the same city where the team was scheduled to play a game.
In a later interview with the NCAA, the now-former assistant coach admitted to altering the form.
The same former assistant coach also allowed another athlete to keep an iPad that was given to him by the coach’s wife, against NCAA rules. The team’s violations were not isolated to the assistant coach, however. The team’s former head coach, Arnold, and its director of operations also committed several infractions, including allowing the director to participate in scouting and other coaching activities, which caused the university to exceed the NCAA’s overall limit on coaches.
When the NCAA began its investigation, according to the report, Arnold provided “false or misleading information” about the director of operations’ coaching activities.
In addition, the former head coach learned that one of his players had been using a booster’s Porsche while the booster, a local real estate agent, was out of town. As soon as Arnold realized the student was driving the vehicle, according to the report, he told the student to stop. He then lectured the team on “making good decisions and warned them about 40-year-old men trying to be their friends,” according to the report.
He reminded them that coaches could be fired over such violations, and told the athletes to keep the matter “in house.” Arnold never reported the incident to anyone outside the program. Under NCAA rules, the student should have been withheld from competition for using the car, but he was not.
Sanctions in the case include a three-year probation period, a one-year postseason ban for the men’s basketball team, vacation of men’s basketball wins and a $10,000 fine.
“When the former head coach allowed the director of operations to participate in coaching activities, failed to report a possible violation and provided false or misleading information during the investigation, he violated NCAA ethical conduct rules,” Greg Christopher, chief hearing officer in the case and athletic director at Xavier University, said. “Many of the violations could have been avoided if the former head coach and director of compliance would have maintained a professional relationship.”