BYU could have saved Hawaii Bowl
BRIGHAM Young accepted an invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl today. Too bad for the Hawaii Bowl, since the Cougars were a major part of a crazy scenario that would've put more people in the Aloha Stadium seats then, say, Nevada against Central Florida.
Brigham Young in the Hawaii Bowl. Some of you would even buy tickets for the privilege to root against the Cougars, and some of you would go and cheer for the blue and white because you attended dear old BYU. Few local sports fans are neutral about BYU, and it would certainly draw more interest locally than Nevada, Louisiana Tech or even Fresno State.
Yes, it's true the Cougars aren't in the WAC or Conference USA, the two leagues tied in with the Dec. 24 game. But it could've happened.
One of the first requirements would be all four WAC teams to get games elsewhere. Here's how that could happen.
Fresno State - the hot property now after giving USC all it could handle Saturday - plays up to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
Nevada - maybe the best bet to represent the WAC in the Hawaii Bowl - negotiates the Donner Pass, instead of the Pacific Ocean, to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.
Boise State - to keep its fan base and the sponsor geeks happy - remains in Boise at the MPC Computers Bowl. (Done deal.)
Louisiana Tech - the toughest piece of the puzzle to fit, even though it makes geographic sense - goes to Houston for the Houston Bowl.
That leaves zero WAC teams for the Hawaii Bowl, opening the door for a non-WAC team that would draw more. It would've been perfect timing for the Cougars' first visit to Aloha Stadium since 2001, when they unwittingly helped create the Hawaii Bowl by losing 72-45 to UH. It turned out to be the de facto "bowl game" for the Warriors, who were left with nowhere to go after a 9-3 season.
Part of what made this possible is the Mountain West has five bowl-eligible teams and only three tie-ins. And there weren't very many bowl bubbas wooing a 6-5 BYU team - a program whose fans are notorious for arriving at the site of postseason games the morning of the event in covered wagons, with no intention of buying anything more than a bottle of milk and a ticket (maybe). But there's a huge Latter Day Saints presence in Las Vegas. The Cougars will draw in Sin City.
Provo is much closer to The Strip than Oahu, but Cougar fans are already here, too (as well as Cougar haters).
Well, it was a fun fantasy while it lasted. Now, it's going to take some kind of hellacious halftime show (is Janet Jackson available?) to draw enough people to keep the game on track for continued NCAA approval.
More attractive possibilities for the Houston Bowl exist than Louisiana Tech. So the Hawaii Bowl could end up with the WAC's second-best Bulldogs on Christmas Eve. The nationally-ranked ones will be at the Liberty Bowl.
Dave Reardon is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org