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Exclusive: HAWAII SUES NCAA, MAY HALT CHAMPIONSHIPS -- March 13, 2000

By Phillip Whitten

ELEVEN members of the University of Hawaii filed a petition today in the U.S. First Circuit Court in Honolulu asking the Court to issue a temporary restraining order enjoining the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from holding it's women's and men's Division I intercollegiate championships.

The three-day women's championship is scheduled to begin this Thursday, March 16, in Indianapolis. The men's meet is to take place in Minneapolis, March 23-25.

The swimmers are: Simon Thirsk, Pedro Ferreira, David Jenkins, Nick Folker, Renati Duplisis, Melanie Zauder, Lori Thomas, Sara Watchorn, Liz Parkinson, Luyis Rojas and Terry Pruitt.

According to James Krueger, attorney for the plaintiffs, the eleven student-athletes are asking the Court to restrain and enjoin the NCAA from holding its championship meets, alleging that they have "unfairly and unjustifiably" been excluded from competing in the events. The motion asks the Court to order the NCAA to permit the plaintiffs to compete.

The reasons the NCAA denied the swimmers' applications include: use of hand-timing, instead of electronic timing after the electronic timing failed at a meet; Hawaii Coach Sam Freas' inadvertently writing the wrong date on one of the forms; designating the dual meet against Bowdoin College as not "bona fide" because the Bowdoin coach did not attend the meet after he was taken to a local hospital with a medical problem; the use of Coach Freas as a timer when there were insufficient timers in one lane during a meet; and three other similar reasons.

The petition argues: "Even if all of the times submitted by our coach to the NCAA were thrown out, we...have all attained times in other meets as would qualify us for the NCAA meet but the NCAA refuses to accept those times..."

The swimmers charge that such refusal by the NCAA constitutes a "glagrant abuse of [any] discretion."

To date the NCAA has had no comment on the action. Wayne Burrow, the NCAA official in charge of running both swimming championships was huddled with legal counsel and has not yet issued a statement.