Extra Point

By Mike Fitzgerald

Wednesday, June 4, 1997


Aloha means goodbye
for Ulima Afoa

DISASTER has struck the University of Hawaii football team once again.

Another assistant coach has jumped the Rainbows' ship. This time it is Ulima Afoa, who at last glance was the offensive line coach.

Oh, good heavens, where will it all end? What will poor head coach Fred vonAppen do without Afoa? This is horrible for UH, right?

Wrong.

Just like the second-to-last Bob Wagner holdover, Trent Miles, Afoa is leaving as a whiner instead of a winner.

First, here's a recap of Afoa's football relationship with Hawaii.

He played at St. Louis School, then left the state of Hawaii to play at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College before enrolling at San Diego State, where he played for two seasons.

Then he joined the Aztecs' coaching staff as a part-time assistant, with an emphasis on recruiting. Two years later, he was made a full-time San Diego State assistant coach, again with recruiting as his main gig.

THIS, it seems, would include talking Hawaii high school players into leaving the state to play at San Diego State, which is a conference rival of the Rainbows.

But when Aztecs head coach Al Luginbill was sacked in 1993, in favor of current head coach Ted Tollner, Afoa was not retained as part of the staff.

So he came back to Hawaii and was hired as defensive coordinator at Punahou High School. Then Wagner hired him as defensive line coach at UH, but the bottom line was to help in the recruiting of local players -- this time for Hawaii, however.

Then, he was kept on by vonAppen, along with Miles, probably to keep a local recruiting connection alive.

Now, at a terrible time of the season for finding a replacement, Afoa is blowing town again to go back to San Diego State, where he will coach special teams and tight ends and -- let's take a wild guess here -- to help convince Hawaii high school players to leave the state to play for the Aztecs.

SO here's how I see it. Afoa didn't stay home to play college football, which is fine. But when he was an unemployed coach on the mainland, he came back to Hawaii and was fortunate enough to get on at Punahou. Then his luck got even better when Wagner hired him at UH, returning him to the Division I college level.

This was especially gracious on Wagner and UH's part to hire someone who showed no loyalty to the state university in the first place and worked for a school in the same conference to take the top players out of Hawaii.

Now he is bailing out on UH, which kept his coaching career alive, to return to work for the same coach, Tollner, who didn't want him in the first place.

Also, I can't recall him landing very many local players for the Rainbows when he was here under Wagner or vonAppen.

And, from my personal observation, he didn't seem like a very dynamic presence as a field coach, either.

To top it off, he is leaving with the same cry-baby attitude that Miles left with -- especially ripping athletic director Hugh Yoshida, who probably helped get him on Wagner's staff and surely was a factor in retaining him with vonAppen.

And the "lack of commitment to football" lines are getting stale. If you open both eyeballs there is physical evidence that money is being spent to rapidly improve the program's facilities.

Even vonAppen has quietly settled into the task of trying to win some football games.

Actually, even though the opening game of the 1997 season is just a few months off, this will give vonAppen a chance to hire a better coach.

Since Afoa managed to leave with some harsh words toward the school and program that saved his coaching career, I have some too. But I'll keep it short.

Good riddance.



Mike Fitzgerald's commentary appears every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.




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