‘Adult’ issues stole some fun from a great year for UH
Why couldn't Hawaii fans just relax and enjoy the ride this past year?
Maybe because the taxpayer side of them felt they were being taken for one.
For those who don't have to fill out 1040s yet? Wheeeee!!!
This was a year best to be viewed through 10-year-old eyes. When you're a kid, all you care about is your heroes and their stats and getting them to sign something. It doesn't matter to you if the athletic department makes money or not, you just live and die on whether the teams win or lose.
And most of the UH squads came through big-time this year, especially last fall when football, volleyball and soccer won WAC championships.
But the supposedly grown-up sports world interfered with the fun. Budgets, incompetent business management, lawyers (four court cases at last count), people firing and quitting and over-analysis of it all sucked out plenty of the joy of what should have been pure celebration.
The last time this amount of angst accompanied this amount of success on lower campus, UH ended up forfeiting a men's volleyball national championship.
Nothing that dramatic this time.
Just the winningest football coach in school history digging out ... and not to the NFL, not to a powerhouse in a bigger conference, but to a school that couldn't even win when it was in the WAC.
Just the athletic director being sent on his way ... in disgrace, but with plenty of pictures of dead presidents as a parting gift.
We'd like to say it all worked out swell, but the hand-wringing continues after one of the best UH sports years, if not the best, on the playing fields. One tiresome example: Last year's football schedule was too easy, the one coming up is too hard.
Of course it all comes down to money and prestige. The Sugar Bowl shellacking is the last thing most Mainlanders remember about UH sports this year, so that whole "national respect" thing goes on the back burner. But there's a theory that there's a positive to all that media exposure last year.
They called it the Flutie Factor back in the 1980s. Applications to Boston College spiked after diminutive Doug threw one of the most memorable touchdown passes in football history, winning himself a Heisman Trophy and making BC more than just a hockey school, at least for a little while.
And Hawaii anticipates a Brennan Bonus.
The terrific and tumultuous football season and aftermath brought plenty of attention to UH, lots of TV time back East in the dead of winter. The theory is that it won't only increase potential students for the school, but also the number of people packing bikinis and suntan lotion.
Maybe the Brennan Bonus will attract another Heisman finalist or maybe even another mice cloner.
Funny thing, though, this idea of exposure - because, well, you get exposed, like Brennan's blind side was (actually both sides, and the front, too) in the Sugar Bowl.
As the Warriors climbed the polls, the nation became aware of Hawaii's on-field success, but it also got a look at its crumbling facilities. The final blow to Herman Frazier's term as AD was his inability to keep June Jones around. But what led to that was his failure - despite promises to the Board of Regents - to raise the money to maintain and improve the physical plant.
So was the success of 2007 a confluence of good fortune impossible to duplicate in years ahead, especially given the state of the economy?
Or was it the start of something enduring, a platform - albeit shaky - to build upon?
Geography, the constant that helps make this the best place in the world in which to live in many ways, may also be the barrier to a regular place among the elite for Hawaii.
Take the price of oil.
New athletic director Jim Donovan is finding it difficult to book a 13th and final game for 2009; Hawaii isn't the only school concerned about travel expenses across 2,500 miles of ocean.
The Florida payout of $600,000 seemed like a lot when it was agreed upon years ago. But after expenses for such a long trip there won't be much left to bite into more projected red ink for 2008-2009.
It's enough to make anyone want to go back to the days when your biggest financial decision was whether to spend the rest of your allowance on a pack of baseball cards or an Icee.
Dave Reardon can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org
is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically.
Reach him at email@example.com