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Akana Case Is Anything But Nothing

If UH assistant basketball coach Brandyn Akana did what has been alleged – that he purposely added incorrect information to an immigration form to get Missouri transfer Stefan Jankovic into school – then he no longer can remain employed by the university.

It doesn’t matter that the paperwork was discovered by an athletic department employee and not submitted. It’s his action, not the results, that would merit separation and what has caught the attention of the NCAA.

Last week the Star-Advertiser reported multiple sources saying the NCAA is sending an investigator to Manoa to find out what happened.

It was inevitable.

No matter what one thinks about the hypocrisy of the NCAA being the arbiter of ethical and legal behavior while at the same time enriching itself through the sweat equity of teenagers and young adults, the association would be negligent in its responsibilities if it did not come calling.

It appears athletics director Ben Jay self-reported to the Big West and NCAA.

That was wise.

Had he not done so, matters could be much worse.

Since no official document was sent, and so long as no other problems are uncovered, UH could come out unscathed.

But that doesn’t free Akana or the school of their responsibility.

So far everyone has remained rather mute on the subject. This is a matter of legal necessity and the standard culture of silence at Fort Manoa. What has come out to date has been both carefully presented and completely ridiculous.

Jay did not comment for the Star-Advertiser article, but earlier called the Akana situation a “serious personnel matter.” This was a slight but important change from previous comments, where he just called it a “personnel matter.”

It is serious.

Too serious for head coach Gib Arnold to pass off Akana’s absence as a recruiting trip, and way too serious to later call the alleged incident “absolutely nothing.”

It is truly something.

Had the F-1 Student Visa (which would appear to be the document in question, since it is used to admit foreign students into the U.S. for education purposes) been submitted, Akana, and perhaps UH, could be found in violation of federal law.

Title 18 U.S. Code Section 1001 says:

“Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully –

(1)falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years … “

The amount of the possible fine is unclear. A 1994 amendment to the law changed the amount from “not more than $10,000” to the current ambiguous amount.

Akana may be just as advertised. He may be a good guy, as friends suggest, and one heck of a coach, as his employer has testified. But none of that matters for a university already suffering from an image problem and economic woes.

Regardless of what the NCAA finds, if Akana did attempt to pass off incorrect information to the U.S. Immigration Service – even if he was ignorant of the possible consequences or did so feeling he was speeding up an inevitable process – he has to go.

I just don’t know how one would spin the story to maintain a relationship with an employee who potentially put the university in such a dangerous legal position.

So what does that mean for Arnold?

If he was aware of his assistant’s actions and did not immediately halt the process and report the incident to Jay, then he too has to go. It’s a harsh but necessary action.

And the university has to tell us what happened.

If it keeps one coach or both, we need to know what happened and why. If they both are let go, we also deserve an explanation. Anything less than complete openness is unacceptable.