Without Warriors, Hawaii Bowl is an impossible sell
THERE was a time when the bowl game in Hawaii meant something.
Held on Christmas Day, one of only a dozen-odd postseason games on the college landscape, the Aloha Bowl was a ratings winner that regularly drew 20 million viewers on ABC-TV. People across America would celebrate the holidays by watching a college football game set in paradise. Everyone benefited from having the likes of Notre Dame, Florida, Washington, UCLA and Michigan State beamed into homes across the land.
But what you've got this Sunday is a distant cousin to the Aloha Bowls of the 1980s and '90s. Now, you have almost as many bowl games as you have teams in the division formally known as I-A. If you win six games and finish in a tie for eighth in your conference, there's a bowl game waiting for you.
Let's see, you've got the Naval Academy -- which lost to Delaware, which lost to Appalachian State, which beat Michigan -- in the Poinsettia Bowl; a rematch of UCLA and BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl; Purdue and Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl ... well, you get the idea.
Blame the NCAA and ESPN for all this bowl madness that left us with Boise State and East Carolina in this year's edition of the Hawaii Bowl at cavernous Aloha Stadium. Born to provide a stage for the Warriors football team, this postseason game did a good job of giving the locals an alternative to staying home.
Remember 2001? That year, Hawaii finished 9-3, including a 72-45 drubbing of BYU that ended the only rivalry the school has ever had. And where did the Warriors go to celebrate this accomplishment?
So in 2002, the Hawaii Bowl was created to remedy this oversight. The Warriors have played in four of them, winning their last three -- over Houston, Alabama-Birmingham and Arizona State. The lone loss was in 2002 against Tulane. The lone miss prior to this Sunday was the 5-7 campaign of 2005.
WHAT DOES THIS all mean? Well, it leaves the 50th state with a game that won't draw much interest locally and even less nationally, and is quite a fall from grace for No. 24 Boise State. The Broncos began 2007 with a shocking victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and end it far from most of their fans in a place they just visited three weeks ago.
We're told the Broncos players voted for this game. You can't really blame them. But it makes more sense for Boise State to stay home and crush Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl, for Nevada to come here and for Fresno State to face New Mexico.
The Wolf Pack, who meet the Lobos in -- you guessed it -- the New Mexico Bowl, haven't played here this season. The Fresno State fans would love to go to Albuquerque to visit the old WAC haunts, instead of traveling to the blue field of Boise to face a Georgia Tech team in transition.
But hey, what do I know?
What Boise State recently realized was it couldn't afford to bring its band to Hawaii, which will cut the attendance in half based on ticket sales to the two teams. The Broncos will likely win big and a million points could be scored by game's end in front of a crowd that might fit comfortably in an Airbus A380.
It is what it is. And this time, that's not good for anybody.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org