Through yesterday afternoon, the Rainbow ticket office reported 24,615 season tickets sold, off nearly 2,000 from a year ago or about 7 percent.
Sales for returning students will continue through the week, but UH officials don't expect total season-ticket sales to exceed 25,000.
What is even more alarming is this is a drop of approximately 7,000 a game - or nearly 25 percent - from the 1992 Holiday Bowl championship season.
"I think our drop in enrollment and the overall economy are to blame for this year's numbers," UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida said. "I also think people out there are waiting to see what happens with our team."
Sales at Aloha Stadium were also slightly down from a year ago. UH officials reported that about 2,000 tickets were sold at the box office.
It's the first time this year that individual tickets went on sale to the general public. UH officials expect a crowd of about 35,000 for Saturday's season opener with Boston College.
Last year's season opener against the University of Texas drew 40,696 through the Aloha Stadium gates. Tickets issued for that game were 43,243.
If UH officials are correct, this home opener will be the smallest crowd since Dick Tomey's first year. The Rainbows sold 26,532 tickets for their 1977 season opener against New Mexico.
First-year Hawaii coach Fred vonAppen told an overflowing Quarterback Club luncheon crowd yesterday that the local fans needed to support the Rainbows any way they could.
Through the years, ticket sales have been the lifeline for this department. VonAppen believes other avenues should be explored.
"We need to raise money many different ways," vonAppen said. "But it's a total buy-in on this baby - coaches, players, administration and politicians.
"It's also a philosophical buy-in, not just financial. If you want to have the top recruits, you have to have the facilities to recruit to."
Upgrading facilities can be an expensive proposition. That's one reason season-ticket renewals went up $1 from last year.
Although the face value for tickets remained the same - $16 for sideline seats and $14 for end zone - season-ticket holders weren't offered last year's $1 discount.
In 1995, UH fans paid $105 for sideline seats and $91 for end zone for seven home games. This year, it went up to $128 and $112, respectively, for eight home games.
"Because we didn't offer the discount to our season-ticket holders, the money generated this year will hopefully be about the same as last year," Yoshida said.
Last year, the total generated from ticket sales was nearly $2.57 million. Eliminating the discount generated about $200,000 more this year.