Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Football bowl
games about to
bid aloha

The Aloha and Oahu bowls
could move to San Francisco and
Seattle if approved by the
NCAA Friday

By Paul Arnett

IF APPROVED by the NCAA at the certification meetings this week, the Aloha and Oahu bowls will no longer be played in Hawaii, Aloha Sports Inc. executive director Fritz Rohlfing told the Star-Bulletin yesterday.

"We listed the Oahu Bowl for Seattle and the Aloha Bowl for San Francisco," Rohlfing said. "We listed Honolulu only if one of those two cities isn't approved. It's sad, but it really speaks to the state of Hawaii's economy."

Rohlfing will make his case at two subcommittee meetings today and tomorrow. The NCAA will announce which bowls are certified at 6 a.m. local time on Friday.

"We won't know anything for sure until then," Rohlfing said. "But I feel like the NCAA will approve the site switches. With the BCS (Bowl Championship Series), it is tough to get good teams when your bowl is at the bottom of the chart (on payouts).

"We've seen the decline through the years, although I must say we still had some quality players in our two games in December.

"We had four players (Georgia's Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud, and Arizona State's Adam Archuleta and Todd Heap) go in the first round of the NFL Draft. The talent was there in those games. But if people don't come, we have to do something different."

Rohlfing met with network officials yesterday to give them an idea of what he would like to do. The game in Seattle is tentatively set for Jan. 2 at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. The Aloha Bowl would be played in San Francisco on Dec. 30 at Pacific Bell Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

"I think they're a little reluctant to give up the Christmas Day time slot," Rohlfing said. "But we feel like we can work something out there. Right now, we need to get the approval of the NCAA before anything else can happen."

Rohlfing already has the Pac-10 in its corner. Commissioner Tom Hansen told the Star-Bulletin earlier this month that he would like one of the games to remain in Hawaii, but understood the economics of the matter.

"We have one year left with both bowl games," Hansen said. "We have no problem if both remain on the West Coast. That's obviously a good thing for us logistically. Seattle and San Francisco are both good sites for us. But obviously, we wish we could keep a relationship with Hawaii. Our relationship with both bowl games has been outstanding."

Rohlfing first announced the idea of shipping out the bowl games in mid-March. Declining attendance, particularly for the Aloha Bowl, hit alarming proportions the last two years.

The 1999 Oahu Bowl between the University of Hawaii and Oregon State drew about 40,000.

"But we didn't get close to that this year," Rohlfing said. "I think the combined attendance was about 25,000. What was really bad was the lack of a crowd in the two most recent Aloha Bowls.

"Empty seats don't look good on national television. The NCAA also has taken a harder stance on the number of tickets sold. We aren't selling enough individual tickets locally. I'm a little nervous about the presentation, but I feel like we're on solid ground."

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