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Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, January 24, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Hula Bowl fans crowd the Maui Mall in Wailuku looking
for autographs from their favorite college football stars.

Mad for Maui

The Valley Island's aggressive
approach and 'can-do' attitude
has helped it become a preferred
destination for high-profile
sporting events

Rule change may hit Maui Invitational
Senior drain hurting Hula Bowl

By Paul Arnett


WAILUKU -- Grant Teaff was attending a prayer breakfast for Gov. Ben Cayetano when former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle leaned in for the kill.

It was a fitting setting for Teaff, who has lived comfortably in Waco, Texas -- the bright buckle of the Bible belt -- for years. But as unexpected as a "Hail Mary, Full of Grace" in the sermon of a Southern Baptist preacher.

"I'll never forget it," said Teaff, the former Baylor University head coach and current executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "I'm about to give a prayer for the people of Hawaii when she whispers in my ear, 'How about bringing the Hula Bowl to Maui?'

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Mercedes Championships: For the past two years,
the PGA Tour began its season with the Mercedes Championships
at Kapalua on the famed Plantation Course. Some wondered if
this move was a wise one for the Tour. Those doubts were silenced
two weeks ago when Tiger Woods beat Ernie Els in a playoff.
It was the highest-rated golf event in ESPN-TV history.

"Well, I was taken aback because it was something I had never even considered. But after seeing what had happened to this fine game and the decline of interest on Oahu, we took a trip to Maui and fell in love with the place."

Maui mayor James Kimo Apana should put Teaff's thoughts in a travel brochure to help sell the most marketable island in the chain.

Not only did Maui save the Hula Bowl from a certain death four years ago, it's $2.9 million Mercedes Championships is the opening act on the PGA Tour, the Kaanapali Classic is the grand-daddy of Senior PGA Tour events in the state and the Maui Invitational is the NCAA's premier preseason basketball tournament.

"It's amazing what you are dealing with when you come here," Bowl Games Hawaii chief executive officer Lenny Klompus said. "It's the 'can-do' attitude that I love. You ask them to do something and they go out of their way to try to get it done."

And it doesn't end with only these major national events.

Granted, the Maui Marathon isn't on the scale of its Honolulu counterpart and perhaps it shouldn't be. The field was limited to 2,500 participants and is already full.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Maui Invitational: In 1984, Chaminade University
officials got a wild idea to bring over some of the nation's
top collegiate basketball talent. Oh sure, the University of
Hawaii's Rainbow Classic was the main event in those days.
But through the years, the Maui Classic transformed into the
Maui Invitational, played in the Lahaina Civic Center, and is
one of the major preseason tournaments in the NCAA.

There are also major surfing and windsurfing events held here. Even the local high school sports hit new heights this past fall, hosting a state playoff football game between Farrington and Baldwin. It drew a crowd of nearly 10,000 at Maui's War Memorial Stadium.

High school state officials have been so impressed with Maui's efforts, the boys' high school state baseball tournament is here this spring. It's only the second time it has been held off Oahu and is one of nine high school state events Maui hosts this year.

"Obviously, we're very proud of the way our people have responded to the challenges of hosting these varied events," Maui Mayor Apana said. "We would like to expand our sports interests by asking a major LPGA or Japanese women's golf tournament to be played here.

"We're also looking into hosting some kind of national professional tennis event. We'd like to attract the players this time of year, either before the Australian Open or after. We think we're a perfect stop along the way.''

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Kaanapali Classic: In the mid-1980s, the Kaanapali
Classic became the first full-field Senior PGA Tour event in
Hawaii. While the Seniors had yet to capture the imagination
of everyone, the eight-year-old senior circuit was well on its
way to competing with the PGA Tour. Many of the game's
greats found new life on the 50-and-over circuit and Maui
became a key part of it.

Through its Division II connections with Chaminade University, Maui would also like to host an NCAA Division I basketball regional. Granted, a facility that meets the minimum host requirements would have to be built, something still on the drawing board. But don't discount the possibility.

There are many people here who remember the early days of the Maui Classic. Back in 1984, there were only four teams with little sponsorship and no major television deal.

"Now, we think of it as the basketball tournament we want to be in,'' North Carolina head coach Bill Guthrie said.

The Tar Heels went on to win the Maui Invitational in November by defeating the Purdue Boilermakers.

"There are a lot of schools who would prefer to play here," Guthrie said. "For one, it's early in the year just at the start of the holiday season. There's no real home-floor advantage and you get to bring your players and fans to this beautiful island. What's not to like about it?"

How much revenue all these sporting events produces is hard to project. Apana didn't have a dollar figure handy. But considering the Mercedes Championships was the most-watched golf event in the history of ESPN, it's not just walking-around money.

"Being in prime time and not having to go up against the NFL playoff games is great for everybody,'' said Mark Rolfing, former Kapalua tournament director. The success of his off-season event helped bring the Mercedes to the shores of West Maui.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin Hula Bowl: Several years ago, the
Hula Bowl celebrated its 50th anniversary and appeared to
be headed the way of the dinosaur -- toward extinction. A
modest Aloha Stadium crowd was on hand to celebrate a
half-century of some of the greatest college all-stars to
ever play in one game. The 52nd annual Hula Bowl
moved to Maui and the traditional event was reborn.

"ESPN does a great job of showing what Maui has to offer. You can't really buy that kind of publicity," said Rolfing.

Maui's aggressive approach to national events is causing a stir on Oahu. With the exception of the Pro Bowl, Oahu's events don't quite match up.

The Maui Invitational has replaced the Rainbow Classic as the top men's basketball event. The world's best players willingly take part in the Mercedes Championships, but through two campaigns, marquee stars Tiger Woods and David Duval, have opted not to tee it up at the Sony Open.

Many recent professional sports ventures on Oahu have failed as well, including the Hawaii Hammerheads and last year's doomed CART auto race.

"There are just too many things to do on Oahu," Teaff said. "Here, you have a captive, enthusiastic audience. Our players and coaches love coming here. To me, when you look around, Maui is what people on the mainland think of when they dream of Hawaii. This is where we want and will continue, God willing, to be.''

Maui Invitational
might be victim of
NCAA rule change

The success of the event has had
a harsh impact on the Rainbow Classic

By Paul Arnett


WAILUKU -- In an effort to cut back on so many preseason collegiate basketball tournaments, the NCAA may adopt new legislation that could have an adverse effect on the Maui Invitational.

"It's our understanding that the NCAA may look at the current exemption rule that allows Division II schools to receive the same benefits of Division I," Maui Mayor James Kimo Apana said. "If they should decide it only applies to Division I, it could hurt our tournament."

The recent interpretation of the Hawaii exemption has certainly hurt the Rainbows. This decade, the upstart Maui Invitational has replaced the Rainbow Classic as the top collegiate tournament in the islands.

Once every four years, teams that play in the island chain don't have to count the games here against their regular-season total of 26. Other preseason events across the country have taken advantage of the rule as well, leaving the Rainbow Classic on the outside looking in.

UH head coach Riley Wallace has warned of this inevitability for years. He knows the Maui Invitational at Thanksgiving is in a better time slot than the Rainbow Classic after Christmas.

Coaches have been telling Wallace that it's difficult for them to go play conference games after competing in Hawaii so late in the preseason. They also prefer not having to worry about beating the home team to win the tournament.

As a result, the Maui Invitational, which is hosted by Division II Chaminade University, has attracted more of the top-rated programs - including North Carolina, Duke and Arizona.

ESPN-TV also has become an aggressive partner with the Maui Invitational.

That network dropped its ties with the Rainbow Classic last year, leaving Wallace's holiday event with no network deal. ESPN severed its ties with the WAC last year, opting to sign a deal with the newly formed Mountain West Conference.

"We're not sure what is going to happen," Apana said. "But obviously, we're happy with the Maui Invitational. It gives our island a lot of exposure during the holiday season. We're hopeful the rule will remain the same."

Senior Bowl drain
hurts Hula Bowl

Top college football players have
dropped out of the Maui event
to play in the NFL-run all-star
game in Mobile, Ala.

By Paul Arnett


WAILUKU -- How about asking the NCAA to change its current format and allow the nation's best players to take part in a collegiate all-star game, regardless of grade?

That question was posed to Bowl Games Hawaii chief executive officer Lenny Klompus after he concluded a meeting yesterday to review Saturday's 54th annual college all-star game.

"It will never happen," Klompus said. "The NCAA would never go for something as radical as that."

But perhaps the organization should, to keep the NFL-run Senior Bowl from hoarding all the nation's best players. If the games were open to underclassmen, there wouldn't be as much pressure to attend one college all-star event over another.

Back when, going to the Hula Bowl was right up there with conference championships and being selected to the All-America team. But even AFCA executive director Grant Teaff realizes those days are gone. He knows now players want to go where the top NFL brass will be and that's Mobile, Ala.

"I blame this on the agents," Teaff said. "They tell their players to break signed agreements with us to go play in a game they believe will afford their guys a better opportunity to compete in the NFL. But what kind of example is that setting? That your word is worthless?

"(Tennessee head coach) Phil Fulmer is losing nine juniors to the NFL. This is something we have to deal with as an organization. We'll be proposing something to the NCAA real soon because we're living in bad times right now. All you hear about are the underclassmen who make it. But there are a lot more who don't."

Not having the brand-name talent may have caused Saturday's decline in attendance. The game was reportedly sold out prior to kickoff. That means nearly 13,000 ticket-holders failed to show up for the game that ended in a 28-28 tie between the North and the South.

Event officials blamed the unusual weather that plagued the island chain last week. And who can forget last year's downpour that soaked the Maui faithful who came to see Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams?

The combination of the two slowed ticket sales during the week and may have affected Saturday's attendance. But 15 players dropping out of the game prior to last Sunday's arrival didn't help matters, either.

"I still believe this is the AFCA's premier event and we're still going to go through our coaches and select the teams the right way," Teaff said. "The vision of Marcia and Lenny Klompus and the people of Maui saved this all-star game that we believe will be around for a long time to come."

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