Hula Bowl dreaming up its biggest draw
Who would draw more people to the Hula Bowl? A Heisman Trophy winner or an American Idol finalist?
The organizers of the 60th edition of the college all-star football game hope both Matt Leinart and Jasmine Trias will perform at Aloha Stadium on Jan. 21 -- plus Camile Velasco, Nohelani Cypriano and hundreds of other entertainers.
The game returns to Oahu after eight years on Maui.
Leinart, the USC quarterback, appeared on the cover of last year's Hula Bowl program as a junior after he won the Heisman Trophy. Securing a commitment from Leinart would be an incredible coup for the struggling Hula Bowl, but a long shot worth taking.
Most top NFL prospects play in the Senior Bowl because of the league's commitment to the all-star game in Mobile, Ala. But Leinart has proven to be a man of his own mind with his decision to return for his senior season with the Trojans instead of tapping into instant millions by entering last year's NFL Draft.
Maybe Leinart would prefer a week in Waikiki to one on the Gulf Coast.
"Matt Leinart is at the top of everybody's list. We would love to have Matt Leinart and I wouldn't put it past Matt Leinart," said Rick Beggs, one of the Hula Bowl's new group of directors.
Trias and her fellow local American Idol star, Camile Velasco, won't be as hard to get. Their manager, Lincoln Jacobe of Hawaii Pacific Entertainment, is working with the new Hula Bowl group and hosted yesterday's news conference that also featured an appearance by Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
"We have her in talks," Jacobe said of Trias. "Also Camile and Nohelani."
Trias' appearance in last year's Hawaii Bowl helped bolster a Christmas Eve crowd to 38,322. Of course, that game also signaled the final University of Hawaii appearance for Tim Chang and Chad Owens. It will take more than a snazzy halftime show for the Hula Bowl to draw the 25,000 the organizers are hoping for to at least break even. (Jacobe said Trias won't perform at this year's Hawaii Bowl.)
"I can't imagine it would be a bad thing to have Jasmine," Beggs said.
Beggs represents Cornerstone Bancard, a credit-card-processing company from Atlanta. He said his company has assumed a share of the game's ownership and is ready to make a major investment (possibly in six figures as title sponsor), and that the Hula Bowl is in Hawaii to stay.
"We would love to make money, we would love to break even. We're willing to take a hit," Beggs said. "Moving is out of the question to us. The Hula Bowl makes no sense in Des Moines."
Beggs apologized to former owner Marcia Klompus and her husband, Lenny, on behalf of another of the game's ownership group, Kenny Hansmire of Overtime Sports Pacific.
Hansmire blasted the couple in a Star-Bulletin interview last week, claiming they used their political connections (both work for Gov. Linda Lingle) to make doing business difficult for the new owners. Hansmire's reaction was spurred by Klompus claiming the name "Hula Bowl" belonged to her because of a contract stipulation.
"Kenny spoke out of turn. This is really an apology to the Klompuses," Beggs said.
The new owners have "agreed in principle" to make a donation to an unnamed local youth sports organization in exchange for rights to the name, Klompus said.
"We wanted to make sure we preserved the name for historical and cultural reasons," Marcia Klompus said.
Representatives from other sponsors, including Hyatt, This Week Publications, Roberts Hawaii and Pleasant Holidays, were introduced.
Hannemann helped keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii as director of the state's Department of Business and Economic Development in the 1990s. He said he will support the game, locally and internationally.
"I have a personal interest and I'm willing to lend my marketing skills," Hannemann said.
Hawaii offensive lineman Brandon Eaton is among the players who have committed to play in the Hula Bowl. Safety Lono Manners and linebacker Tanuvasa Moe have also been invited.