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Full-Court Press

By Paul Arnett

Friday, December 15, 2000


UH needs to get
out of the WAC

THE Wahine's loss to top-ranked Nebraska yesterday is further evidence that the Western Athletic Conference is not the place to be for the University of Hawaii athletic programs.

Forced to play inferior folk for most of the season, the women's volleyball team was the low seed in this week's final four matches in Richmond, Va., and suffered immeasurably for it by having to play the nation's best school right out of the chute.

Had Hawaii drawn USC or Wisconsin, perhaps the Wahine would have extricated themselves from yesterday's deer-in-the-headlights start and rallied for a victory against a less talented opponent.

True, we're speaking in the hypothetical, and if you want to be national champions, it appears the road is going through Omaha, Neb. But what's more apparent is the WAC has little respect on the national scene, despite having unprecedented success.

Last summer, San Jose State was one of eight universities to make it to the College World Series and was promptly awarded a No. 8 seed for its efforts. Not only were the Spartans forced to play top seed Clemson in the opening round, but face the Tigers' ace pitcher as well.

A similar fate awaited the University of Tulsa last spring in men's basketball. Instead of being one of the top teams in a regional based on its regular-season mark of 29-4, the Golden Hurricane was fourth, meaning it had to play top seed Cincinnati in the round of 16. Not exactly the best road to take on the way to the Final Four.

Texas Christian flirted with the Bowl Championship Series for most of this football season. Imagine if the Horned Frogs had gone unbeaten. Would they have received one of the two at-large BCS spots? Unlikely.

Rumors abound that the Mountain West is taking a long, hard look at Hawaii should that eight-team league decide to expand to nine or 10 sometime over the next several seasons.

And while the WAC has fared better since the split two years ago, this league is a better fit for UH. You have to believe Brigham Young, Air Force, Colorado State, San Diego State and Nevada-Las Vegas offer more to Hawaii than Boise State, San Jose State, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech.

For one, the UH programs will have a better television outlet in ESPN than what the Fox Network has provided the WAC the past two campaigns. It comes down to exposure and quality of opponent.

THE WAC remains too spread out. If you drew a triangle and its three points were Honolulu, Ruston, La., and Boise, Idaho, you'd form something large enough to scare Bermuda's into oblivion.

Throw in the fact that TCU is leaving, SMU is back on probation and Rice hasn't contributed much outside the Owls advancing to the College World Series in 1999, and so much for the Lone Star State marquee.

If UH athletic department officials were visionaries -- any Lasix surgeons in the house? -- they would be wise to see what it would take to be included in the upwardly mobile Mountain West.

It's true, the WAC currently holds the bragging rights between the two. But if this league can't get any respect now, when it clearly deserves it, imagine what things will be like after San Jose State or Rice aren't in the College World Series, Tulsa falls short of the elite eight in men's basketball and Hawaii doesn't make it to the final four in women's volleyball.

That day will come. And when it does, what then?



Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.
Email Paul: parnett@starbulletin.com.



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