Warriors will savor The Swamp
GAINESVILLE, Fla. » Tom Petty, the rocker from these parts, once warbled "don't come around here no more."
That just might be the case for the Hawaii football program.
The Warriors open the season today against fifth-ranked Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and it could be a while - if ever - before a UH team travels this far east again.
"I won't rule it out completely, but we're only going to do home-and-home (series) and we're not going to do them often," UH athletic director Jim Donovan said as the Warriors wrapped up their walk-through at The Swamp yesterday afternoon.
"It has to make sense for us. That means it would be a program that would be good for us to play and that would help us draw people when they came to Hawaii."
Hawaii's Greg McMackin, who makes his head coaching debut today, said he doesn't foresee another East Coast trek any time soon.
"I think there's enough teams on the West Coast and the Colorados (scheduled to play four games against UH starting in 2010) and those people that I probably wouldn't come out here and spend all that money," McMackin said.
From a financial perspective, Donovan said UH will net between $300,000 and $350,000 by playing the Gators.
On the field, the Warriors - who ended last season in the Sugar Bowl but enter today's game as 35-point underdogs - went through their final preparations yesterday and McMackin confirmed that junior Greg Alexander would start at quarterback against the Gators. Alexander, playing his first Division I game today, had been getting most of the repetitions in practice since sophomore Brent Rausch, now the backup, suffered a strain in his throwing arm last week.
The Warriors were able to soak in some of the ambiance of the Swamp, a steamy stadium that will be far louder when they return for today's 12:30 p.m. local time (6:30 a.m. Hawaii time) kickoff.
"It's a really nice stadium, but I've been in big stadiums and so have these kids," McMackin said. "It'll be a college game-day experience and that's going to be exciting for everybody. But I don't even know how big a crowd is when you're coaching because you're focused in on what's going on."
But McMackin said he will seek out the 3,000 or so Hawaii fans expected to attend the game, including those who made the trip from the islands and mainland supporters.
"I think it's awesome that they made the trip here to show their support and it'll mean a lot to the players and coaches," Donovan said.