Donovan sees neighbor isles hosting more UH sports


POSTED: Sunday, April 12, 2009

WAILUKU » Neighbor island fans can expect more University of Hawaii sports events, UH athletic director Jim Donovan said yesterday, after a successful spring football scrimmage on Maui.

“;It's almost a certainty,”; Donovan said. “;Like I said when I got hired, this is Hawaii's team.”;

Donovan did not rule out the possibility of a regular-season football game at War Memorial Stadium, site of yesterday's 2-hour practice followed by an autograph session. The Warriors beat Montana in a game at War Memorial in 2001.

But major improvements, including nearly 7,000 more seats, are needed before such a venture can have a chance to make financial sense, Donovan said.

“;We'd look at football, but there has to be at least 22,000 seats before it can begin to possibly be economically feasible,”; he said. “;It would also have to be a year when we have eight home games.”;

Men's and women's volleyball, softball and baseball are more likely to play regular-season competitions on the neighbor islands.

UH has already held golf tournaments on Kauai and the Big Island.

State senator Shan Tsutsui, (D, Wailuku-Kahului) likes the idea of hosting a football game, but agrees renovations are needed at the former venue of the Hula Bowl, which seats a maximum 15,500.

“;Realistically it'd be a challenge,”; Tsutsui said. “;There would have to be improvements, including the P.A. and the seating. But something like this shows the university they have our support on Maui.”;

Not many Valley Isle fans get to Oahu in the fall for home games, but many watch on TV.

“;Maui really supports us, especially with pay-per-view, and we wanted to say thank you,”; Donovan said.


Rolo recalls

UH quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich was on the UH team that played here in 2001, but the win over Montana was quarterbacked by Tim Chang. After Chang was injured early in the season, Rolovich took over and led the Warriors to a 9-3 record.

Rolovich then played at War Memorial in the Hula Bowl. Under the tutelage of Steve Spurrier, Rolovich threw three touchdown passes and took MVP honors as his Aina team beat the Kai 45-28.

“;I have good memories of this stadium,”; Rolovich said.


Familiar ground

Andrew Faaumu was in the stands the last time the Warriors visited Maui, making his return to War Memorial Stadium particularly meaningful.

“;It was real emotional,”; Faaumu said. “;I attended the game against Montana and that was a big thing to me. ... When Coach announced we were going to Maui there were really no words to express how I felt.”;

Faaumu, a Lahainaluna graduate from Kihei, is a walk-on offensive lineman and yesterday's scrimmage was his first live action since the final game of his senior season in 2006.

“;When I was in high school it was a big locker room. But when I come back now it's kind of small,”; he said.


Catching on

With the starting receivers sitting out the scrimmage, the Warriors' younger set saw considerable playing time yesterday.

Junior slotback Ryan Henry was among the busiest, catching seven passes for 50 yards. Dustin Blount had four catches for 52 yards, including a 29-yard connection with Shane Austin late in the scrimmage.

Two safeties also pulled down passes for the defense. Kenny Estes had a nice return after picking off an overthrown pass. Spencer Smith later made a leaping interception over the middle.


Signing day

Many of the fans stuck around for the autograph session following the scrimmage. Running back Inoke Funaki was among the most popular, signing for about an hour following the practice.

Matt Wong of Waiehu was among those staking out a spot near the locker room with his son Cody-John looking to get a football signed. He said his family attends several games on Oahu each season, but appreciated having the team come to them this time.

“;It was great, with the airline prices and everything, not everybody has the opportunity to go (to games),”; Wong said. “;It looked like a lot of people took advantage of meeting the coaches and players. It was great to see people coming out and support the team.”;


The Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon contributed to this story.