It’s bad enough when a program has to fire its head coach in late-October, just a couple weeks before the start of the season as Hawaii did earlier this week. Now add to this the fact that the Rainbow Warriors’ best player has been declared ineligible by the NCAA, and what you have are the makings of what could be a very tough season for interim head coach Benjy Taylor.
Earlier this week junior forward Isaac Fotu, an All-Big West selection last season and a preseason All-Big West choice heading into the 2014-15 season, was declared ineligible as part of the NCAA’s investigation into the program for allegedly receiving impermissible benefits. Head coach Gib Arnold and assistant Brandyn Akana were fired earlier this week in what was viewed as a preemptive strike by the school in response to the NCAA investigation.
Fotu averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and with fellow All-Big West forward Christian Standhardinger out of eligibility he was expected to lead the way for Hawaii. Now all Fotu can do is practice while holding out hope that the appeal for reinstatement is granted.
And according to KHON2, Fotu isn’t the only concern from a player standpoint as some have been approached by other schools hoping to take advantage of the tumult within the Hawaii program.
Taylor confirmed that several players on the team were contacted by other programs in an attempt to capitalize on the ongoing turmoil.
“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I’m going to be the head coach. I know I’m the acting head coach but I don’t know what that means, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Taylor said. “The people of Hawaii deserve a really, really good product. This is a really good team. This is a good group of guys. It takes time to build a team, build a program and that’s what we’ve been doing. This is our fifth year and we feel like this is it. This is our year.”
With the NCAA having wrapped up its investigation, the next step for Hawaii is to receive a notice of allegations in the near future. Add to this the fact that athletic director Ben Jay is on medical leave, and it’s anything but smooth sailing at Hawaii.