How long has it been since MidWeek talked to the man affectionately known as “Wags”?
Put it this way. Bob and Gloria Wagner were childless at the time. They now have a daughter, Christine, nearly ready to graduate from Waiakea High School. Yep, it’s been a long time. But no matter how many years click by, the former UH football coach will always be remembered for an evening in 1989 when the Rainbows finally defeated longtime rival BYU.
“I will talk to coaches now who were students at UH at the time, and they will tell me how long they partied after the game,” laughs the coach who guided UH to that unforgettable 56-14 win.
Building on that successful game and later wins against the Cougars and the 1992 Holiday Bowl victory over Illinois, Wagner has moved from the state’s flagship university to its most famed high school.
Wagner became the athletic director for the Kamehameha Schools’ Hilo campus in 2002 and is enjoying the demands of starting an entire sports program from the ground up.
“It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of work - a lot of work, but it’s been very gratifying seeing the results,” he says.
At the time the offer came across his desk, Wagner was the defensive coordinator for the University of Texas at El Paso, a job he says was just a bad fit for him and his family. So when the chance came to move back to Hawaii, he jumped at it.
“There are very few opportunities to start a new school, especially a Kamehameha School,” he says. “It was a pretty special deal, because Hawaii has always been home and it has always been very special. To come back and be involved with an institution like Kamehameha Schools was a special opportunity.”
Though the newest of the schools’ campuses, the Hilo school is well on its way to becoming a player in state high school athletics. Wagner says the school boasts a 79 percent participation level in sports. It even has 30 students who have completed three years of athletics while maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average.
So is a return to the sidelines in the future for Wagner? Though he offers up the “never say never” line, it seems unlikely because Gloria is happy right where they are. “My wife was talking about how much she enjoyed the rain sitting out on the patio, and that scared the hell out of me,” jokes Wagner before offering up his own opinion. “We love living on the Big Island. The people are great and we’re doing something real special.”
Wags is not going anywhere.
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