Silver won’t mend lining on UH cloud
YOU stand on the Aloha Stadium FieldTurf, looking up, looking around. Taking it in, at the end of Hawaii's football season, 2005. And you wonder if Herman Frazier even knows there's a problem.
Hey, you see where an economist might miss it. The books might balance. The remaining season-ticket holders are paying more to make up for the ones who left. Live pay-per-view of the games brings in the cash, they say (and besides, that's where everybody is, the mantra goes). Isn't that what the board of regents is worried about?
Maybe. Maybe all the numbers equal out.
Except they don't. They never do, in situations like this. You look at all those empty seats, the comfortably wide-open parking lot. You listen to the radio. You talk to people -- your uncle, casual friends, random folks talking football on the street -- around town. You hear the feelings pouring out. You just feel the vibe. Something is wrong.
For once, the bottom line is, it doesn't matter what the bottom line is. Doesn't matter what the money numbers say.
And you wonder if the powers that be at UH even have any idea what is going on.
I wonder because of the way they reacted during the 2004 season. You remember. There were a lot of ugly feelings surrounding Hawaii football then -- more restore-the-Rainbow rumblings, "tradition," the June Jones-Joe (Hawaii's "Anchorman") Moore techno music talk-radio feud, losses by scores like 69-3, 70-14. And it all boiled over with Jones' emotional meltdown of a soliloquy after the Idaho win.
Now, anyone with eyes could have seen there was a problem. Anyone with pores in his skin could have felt it in the air.
It was awful.
UH needed to do something. It needed to bring the fans "home" again. It needed to get the good vibrations back. The situation called for healing. A leader would have done something.
A gesture, anything (it's surprising, in life, how many times that's all it takes).
But then, somehow, in those last two games a year ago, UH clawed its way into the Hawaii Bowl. Somehow -- about 43 home holding calls and a Chad Owens Christmas miracle -- UH beat Michigan State and was in. A bowl team. A winning team.
And so everything was cool, right? Obviously, business as usual was working just fine. No need to look at anything. Hawaii was in a bowl. There was no problem, apparently.
Except there was. But they didn't even see it, which is what makes me wonder if they even see it now.
Instead, in the offseason, there was business as usual. Which included raising ticket prices, in a manner which some longtime supporters said left them feeling turned off.
And more controversy, more chaos. More negative vibe. Another Jones public feud, this time calling out Kahuku High School in a press conference on national signing day.
And then the silver uniforms. Something so silly. Something so small. Something that shouldn't matter, really.
But it was a gesture -- in the other direction. It was an in-your-face declaration that Hawaii would no longer wear its school colors, green and white.
And here we are.
Here we are, dwindling crowds. Disconnect. Discontent.
I thought introducing silver uniforms would be the last straw and it was. But not in the way anyone thought. There was no outrage, no outcry, no Joe Moore newscast hullabaloo. No one said much of anything, really. They just gave up. They just stopped going to the games.
Now, it would be ridiculous to say that silver uniforms caused this massive drop in interest and attendance. And I'm not saying that. There are a lot of factors. This was not a big thing, just the last thing. After all of the brouhahas (especially with Moore over music and Rainbows, just last year) that came with Jones' remaking of Hawaii's beloved college football team in his own Harley Davidson T-shirt motif, Jones had to have known this move would be seen as looking for another fight.
The final straw was that there was no fight.
That was a bad sign.
That's how you knew this was serious. No one even bothered to get angry. He couldn't even aggravate anyone, this time.
The opposite of love isn't hate. It's indifference. The opposite of "iconic" isn't revulsion. It's 20,000 in the stands. The opposite of "I'm cool!" isn't "you suck." It's "Whatever."
And it isn't just that the high school state championship doubleheader outdrew the UH Senior Walk game that followed the very next night. It's that the high school event outdrew THREE UH games, this year. And a fourth was better than the prep mark of 24,667 by just 108 people through the gates. And there were only 29,088 through the turnstile for a game against a ranked Wisconsin team -- and it looked like about 6,000 of them were wearing red.
Even with a No. 1, historic USC team in town to bring 48,803 through the turnstiles, UH averaged an actual-count home crowd of only 28,139 per game this year.
Maybe the money numbers do add up. Maybe everything said about pay-per-view is true.
But something is wrong. People are not happy. They're not emotionally invested. UH football is not as big as it was even a couple of seasons ago. Those actual attendance numbers are a trend that could be headed toward the vonAppen-esque.
Part of it is certainly due to a 5-7 season. Had UH gone 12-0, the crowds would have been healthy, for sure. But don't forget, the trend started in Week 4 -- in one of the season's biggest games, against one of the WAC's marquee teams, with hope alive and the whole season ahead. And 25,661 showed up for Boise State. It would beat the high school number by less than a grand.
In 2004, there were warning signs, red lights, sirens, and apparently UH didn't see how fragile this thing was. Now?
I'm thinking the UH administration is banking on Hawaii having a good team next season, and then everything will be OK. Won't it? If Hawaii is winning, there is no problem and business as usual works just fine.
I, too, think UH will have a good team next year. But it better. If it doesn't, those silver and black uniforms will look really intimidating in front of 15,000 fans.