Open Shots

By Dave Reardon

Friday, August 29, 1997


Here’s hoping more
is better for Rainbows

THERE are many ways to interpret the University of Hawaii football team's slogan for this year, "Expect More."

Second-year head coach Fred vonAppen, who coined it, has made it clear he expects more from the community -- not only in the form of ticket sales and moral support, but also the kind of heavy financial backing that it takes to field a consistent Division I winner.

The players expect more from each other because they are more talented and deeper than the group that went 2-10 last year.

Expect more funny lines from defensive coordinator Don Lindsey. But hopefully for the Rainbows, less of the self-deprecating variety. At Monday's Na Koa banquet, Lindsey had the best line of the preseason when he said last year's highlight film "could fit in a snuff can."

VonAppen says the fans can expect more quality football from the Rainbows, and, eventually, more victories.

Gov. Ben Cayetano expects more gratitude from vonAppen when he tries to help by hitting up some of his well-heeled associates for the money the program needs.

Half a million dollars might not be what it takes to level the turf with the Notre Dames and Brigham Youngs of the world, but it looks like a good start from here, and Cayetano says he hasn't shut the door to doing more.

PERHAPS we can expect a little more tact from Cayetano, too. It was an unfair shot when he said of the coach, "I don't think he's inspired the team to do anything," when vonAppen and his staff has rallied the team to vast academic improvement.

VonAppen can expect more help from Cayetano's influence -- if he opens some kind of civil dialogue, the sooner the better. Perhaps early next week after the business at hand, tomorrow's opening game against Minnesota.

But vonAppen is not the type to go hat-in-hand, or to back down from previous statements.

His persistent complaining -- valid or not is not the issue -- via the media has turned off some folks, and not just the governor and his rich friends.

For every working-class football fan who is appalled at the Rainbows' lack of charter flights, or the non-rollover of vonAppen's contract, there is another one saying, "Quit whining and start winning."

Maybe they don't understand the dynamics of big-time college football. But they do understand having to work hard for a living in a tight economy, and that they have to budget their entertainment dollar. And they don't like complainers, especially ones who make more money than they do.

Also, it doesn't matter who you are: You can only take your bosses to task (especially publicly) so often before getting into hot water. Well, perhaps Michael Jordan is an exception.

VONAPPEN, a first-time head coach who was previously a successful assistant for 32 years, disdains the politics involved with his job. Well, as long as he is the Rainbow head coach, he can expect more. As the man responsible for the success and failure of the most visible sports team in the state -- by far -- it comes with the territory.

"I'm a coach, not a politician," vonAppen said Monday at the Honolulu Quarterback Club, during a calm before the recent storm. "I'm not very good at politics and I don't want to be good at politics."

When he was a position coach or a coordinator, vonAppen could spend more time doing what it was that kept him in coaching all those years -- teaching.

It's easy to see vonAppen and his staff are sincere when they talk about how much they care about their players. And the feeling seems to be mutual.

Ohana spirit, combined with talent, of course, goes a long way in football. I see the Rainbows finishing at 6-6, starting with an upset victory tomorrow.

But beyond this season, can anyone "Expect More?"

Dave Reardon is a magazine editor and freelance
writer who has covered Hawaii sports since 1977.
He can be reached via the Star-Bulletin or
by email at dreardon@hmsa.com.




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