Scheduling USC goes beyond wins and losses


POSTED: Thursday, June 04, 2009

Surely you remember the greatest thing to happen to the state of Hawaii. It was just six years ago. The Warriors running onto the field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Of course, June Jones meant to say it would be the greatest thing to happen in state SPORTS history. And, since he said it before the game, he probably meant to put the word POTENTIALLY in front of the word greatest.

If Hawaii had somehow beaten USC instead of losing 61-32 on Sept. 13, 2003 ... yes, it might have been the biggest sports deal in the state's history (that would come four years later: 12-0 before the Sugar Bowl disappearance). There would've been airport greetings and parades worthy of a Little League team returning from Williamsport with the hardware.

It certainly would've gone straight to the top as UH's greatest road win, eclipsing 1955 at Nebraska.

This all comes to mind now because UH and USC are in it again for the long haul.

They've played three times since 1999, and already had another game scheduled for next year. Now, a home-and-home in 2012 and 2013.

The Trojans have won all six meetings, with a 297-67 point difference.

TO RATIONAL MINDS, automatic losses to a perennial powerhouse. But this is the type of booking athletic director Jim Donovan (who scheduled at USC in '03, to coincide with what would've been Tim Chang's senior year if not for an injury) and coach Greg McMackin like.

Money's a big reason. Hosting USC is a guaranteed sellout. And there's a $350,000 check for UH when it goes to the Coliseum (same amount the Trojans get for appearing at Aloha Stadium).

Geography figures in. A 5-hour flight makes a lot more sense than a 10-hour flight.

“;Normally, Coach Mack wants to play in the West. He doesn't mind any Pac-10 team, sees it as a positive for recruiting,”; Donovan said. “;As long as it's a home-and-home. We'll consider east of the Mississippi, but not very often.”;

Such an exception is Army. That home-and-home series was booked because former UH player and assistant Rich Ellerson is coach of the Black Knights, and—as Jones pointed out—it makes sense for Hawaii to play the service academies.

The Warriors won't, however, go all the way to the Atlantic without a return engagement. If Tim Tebow and the Gators were coming to Aloha Stadium this fall, it might have been worth the debacle in The Swamp last year. But they're not.

SO DOES this ongoing relationship with USC make sense for Hawaii beyond finances?

Well, you can look at it as a bodybag game, taking a beating for the bucks. But the players don't, and that's what matters. As Donovan said, having USC on the schedule can help in recruiting, too.

When the Warriors ran onto the Coliseum field six years ago to play No. 4 in the land, they believed. They held Matt Leinart, Lofa Tatupu, Reggie Bush and company even for a quarter. Then a couple of bad calls, then an avalanche of USC talent. It's the way it usually goes. The way it almost always goes when it's slingshots against tanks.

But don't forget what Appalachian State did at Michigan. Early in the season, especially, the players believe anything's possible.