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Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2007

No teams want to play in paradise

Hawaii finding it impossible to get teams to visit, absorb certain defeat

July 5, 2007

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So this is what it has come to. Not only does Hawaii have to beg teams to play in paradise, it has to sweeten the deal with three-quarters of a million dollars.

And still no takers.

"Teams don't want to make the trip anymore," says Hawaii coach June Jones. "They come here, we kick their butt, they go home."

That's not bravado, folks. That's fact. In the past five seasons, Jones' teams have beaten Michigan State, Alabama, Purdue and Arizona State - an impressive BCS foursome. No wonder no one wanted in when the Warriors were looking for a game to complete this fall's schedule.

No wonder Michigan State tried for a year to get out of a game - the same one Hawaii now can't replace - before finally paying $250,000 to do so. No wonder when Florida - big, bad Florida - agreed to play the Warriors in Gainesville, Fla., for the 2008 season opener, there was no offer to return a home game to Hawaii.

Remember all these things when you're whining about Hawaii's cupcake schedule later this year. When the Warriors' unbeaten regular season includes wins over I-AA Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern. When snooty major conference teams are politicking for a spot in a BCS game ahead of Hawaii because, really, who did the Warriors play?

Hawaii's administration officially called it quits last month. No more begging, no more pleading, no more $750,000 guaranteed payout offers. One BCS athletic director told me it costs "no more than $350,000" for a team to travel to Hawaii and play. You do the math. A BCS school could have walked away with $400,000 of cold, hard profit - for a road game.

Jones wouldn't get into specifics but did say "a couple" of Pac-10 teams were recently offered the $750,000 - and national television coverage - and declined.

So the team with a record-setting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate (Colt Brennan), the program that will have 11 players from last year's 11-win team in NFL camps this summer, was reduced to landing a BCS team desperate for any television exposure (Washington) and two I-AA teams to reach the minimum 12 games.

The NCAA allows Hawaii to play 13 games and allows mainland teams an exempt game for playing at Hawaii. The Michigan State game was the 13th game, and now Hawaii has only one BCS opponent, which isn't enough to legitimize its schedule.

Because, heaven knows, non-BCS schools better load up with games against BCS schools if they want to be considered in an opinion-driven poll system.

You can have all the concocted and convoluted theories about why the little guy can't play with the big guy, but Hawaii, Boise State and Utah, among others, are proving that the little guys can definitely hold their own.

Plus, the non-BCS schools (Boise State, Utah) that have played in BCS bowls are 2-0.

Certainly the big guys are beginning to take the little guys more seriously. Which brings us back to Jones' original statement: No team wants to come to paradise to get its butt kicked.

Fair enough.

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