Bowling Without The Warriors

Bobby Curran
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Friday - November 18, 2005
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Somewhere down deep in your midnight soul, you knew the day was coming. You knew that sooner or later the University of Hawaii football team would fail to achieve bowl eligibility. That day arrived when the final gun sounded in Reno, ending Hawaii’s loss to Nevada and the Warriors’chances at another miracle finish and eventual berth in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

But maybe some good will come out of this.

Certainly it will lead to serious reflection on the part of fans, administrators and bowl executives about the nature and future of a bowl game in Hawaii. The guarantee of an invite to a bowl-eligible Hawaii team was for the first two years of the bowl’s existence; as a practical matter, it is a permanent fixture. Bowl games, with a couple of exceptions, i.e. the Fiesta Bowl, which is run by a non-profit foundation, are for-profit entities. After the fiasco endured by the Holiday Bowl in 1992, when a reported 1,200 Hawaii fans journeyed to San Diego to watch Hawaii beat Illinois, it has been a foregone conclusion that no Mainland bowl would willingly take Hawaii. Only the WAC champion and runner-up are guaranteed a bowl berth.

Yes the WAC has two tie-ins at present, but conceivably Hawaii could be a co-champion (in a three-way tie), go 10 and 2 and still be passed over for a team whose boosters are more likely to fill hotels and restaurants in a bowl city. Thus, the appearance of the Hawaii Bowl, owned by ESPN Regional and sponsored by Sheraton, seemed a godsend. Hawaii fans responded, and attendance was good despite the holiday date.

But now the conference affiliation of C-USA appears a liability. Bad enough that a WAC team, probably Nevada, will be one of the teams. Now consider the other side. Southern Mississippi? Central Florida? Can you name one player from either team? Hawaii fans will be a tough sell to change family plans on Christmas Eve to watch teams about whom they know little and care even less.

Which brings us to the philosophical portion of the discussion.

If people want entertainment elements (not just in sports), to remain in Hawaii, they need to support them. If you care about keeping the Honolulu Symphony, you have to support it. Otherwise, it goes away. Forget about saving the bowl for UH - recent attendance indicates that interest is down and pushing guilt is poor marketing strategy. Think more about preserving a marquee sporting event in the state, as we do wholeheartedly for the Pro Bowl and will have to do for the Hula Bowl if that game is to survive. What does it do for tourism to have three hours of national television exposure on Christmas Eve?

And for the smart folks who run the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, it’s time to get outside the box. Why not make this the biggest extravaganza for children at Christmas the state has ever seen? How about setting up a program for those of us who can to buy tickets for donation to those children and their parents who can’t?

Dare to do something great, and we’ll help you. We’re Hawaii people, the most generous on earth. Give us a reason, something beyond a football game between Nevada and Central Florida.

After all, ‘tis the season.

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