The UH men’s basketball team will be able to participate in post-season play, following an announcement by the NCAA Friday morning.
The organization also announced UH’s probationary period was reduced from three years to two, and will now end in December 2017. The scholarship penalty was also reduced from two to one for each of the two years.
The decision comes after UH appealed the NCAA December 2015 ruling that instituted the penalties, and just 33 hours before the deadline for UH to become eligible for the Big West Basketball Tournament.
The organization says it took so long to make a decision, it actually cited its own delay as the ultimate reason to remove the ban.
The team celebrated in the Sacramento International Airport Friday morning as the Big West defending champions head back to Anaheim.
After Hawaii fell to UC Davis Thursday night, the announcement was welcome news for a group paying for the sins of its predecessors.
“It’s a perfect pick me up. Obviously we were down about the loss to Davis,” said junior forward Gibson Johnson. “I think the tournament mentality is super fun. The atmosphere in a tournament where it’s win or go home, I think that’s a competitor’s dream. That’s what we look forward to and that’s why we play the game, so we’re all really excited.”
“It’s perfect timing, you know, coming into the last game of the season and to get this news, it’s something we’re all looking forward to,” said senior forward Noah Allen.
“I don’t know if I thought that even if you envision you’d have that moment, you can share that with your team,” said head coach Eran Ganot. “I don’t know if I thought it would be in an airport right before you’re about to board the flight in some random corner. But it didn’t really matter at that point where it was. All that mattered was the word and to see their faces, it was pretty special. It was something I’ll never forget and hopefully we can build off of that.”
“I was obviously thrilled for the student-athletes,” said athletics director David Matlin. “For the players, when you watch what they did this season, I mean they played hard all season and frankly, they’ve exceeded expectations, so I know for coach to tell them at the airport was special, so it’s a good day.”
Some of the damage can’t be undone. Stefan Jankovic, 2016 Big West Player of the Year, left to play professionally after his junior season, partly due to the sanctions.
He tweeted Friday: “Lol @NCAA a year late.”
In 2015, an NCAA panel found that former head coach Gib Arnold provided false or misleading information during the investigation, allowed his director of operations to participate in coaching activities, and failed to report a possible NCAA violation. Additionally, the panel found the former head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules and did not promote an atmosphere for compliance.
Despite the postseason uncertainty throughout the entire season, and with no returning starters from last year’s team that made it the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Rainbow Warriors are 14-14 overall with a chance at securing a winning regular-season record.
The ‘Bows tip off at Long Beach State Saturday at 3 p.m. HST with the game airing on the Watch ESPN app.