HONOLULU (KHON2) — Despite being star back-to-back men’s volleyball national champions, many Rainbow Warriors are more like everyday students than you might think.
The team landed four players on the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American team, and all four are international players. All but one, middle blocker Guilherme Voss, is not allowed to receive extra compensation from the NCAA’s new name, image, and likeness rules.
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“Right now currently for international (student-athletes), their student visas do not allow it. So, could that change? Yes, but it’s not really a university or NCAA issue,” Athletic Director David Matlin said.
That is more impactful for the men’s volleyball team, which has to split 4.5 scholarships across its 23-man roster. The Rainbow Warrior’s lone first-team AVCA first-team All-American Jakob Thelle still has to take out student loans.
“A lot of is this kind of like way to make out of it is loans. So like I do have a lot of government loans that I can kind of support it,” Thelle said.
But many believe he would have a NIL windfall if he were allowed.
“If Jakob could get a NIL deal he would be whew because he is the man — the captain,” Voss said.
“I would love to see an opportunity for these foreign athletes to get some sort of exemption because if you look at a player like Jakob Thelle, that kid could be making a lot of money right now if he qualified under this NIL ruling,” RKT Media President & CEO Ryan Kalei Tsuji said.
Thelle was hit with a line of fans at Tuesday’s downtown rally to celebrate the national championship.
“Yesterday it was so funny because like a whole line just waiting for me to sign autographs and take pictures and I’m like, it looks like the spicy ahi line at Foodland but it’s from me like I can’t believe this,” Thelle laughed.
But as prices skyrocket everywhere, something as simple as a free poke bowl could be big for a student-athlete, but it would also put an international player’s visa at risk. UH is taking no chances after the men’s volleyball team’s 2002 national championship was stripped by the NCAA over international player Costas Theocharidis being ruled ineligible.
Still, Thelle has been offered some deals.
“I’ve had a couple of offers (but) kind of reject all of them,” he said.
It’s not just him. The men’s basketball team’s top four leading scorers are foreign. Australian Amy Atwell recently led the Rainbow Wahine basketball team to the NCAA tournament. Water polo’s Big West Conference freshman of the year Morgan McDowell is from New Zealand.
Thelle is hoping they’ll get a bite out of the NIL pie next year.
“If there’s any chance like getting free samples from different brands and different companies, getting spicy ahi, that would be fantastic,” Thelle said.
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KHON2 reached out to Hawaii’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. but has yet to hear back.