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Earlier starts in Hawaii requested by Fresno State and SJSU


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POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY » With belts tightening around the Western Athletic Conference, among the topics raised at the WAC Football Preview yesterday were inquiries by Fresno State and San Jose State about playing their games at Hawaii earlier in the day as a way to save money.

During WAC commissioner Karl Benson's session with reporters, Fresno State head coach Pat Hill said pushing kickoff up an hour from UH's traditional 6 p.m. starts would allow the Bulldogs to catch a late-night flight back to California and save the program between $12,000 and $15,000 in bus, meals and lodging for the night.

“;I just don't want to spend an extra night,”; Hill said. “;When you're trying to save money, that's a way to save.”;

San Jose State head coach Dick Tomey concurred.

“;For all of us on the mainland who go to Hawaii to play it would be helpful if the kickoff was back (earlier) 1 hour,”; said Tomey, a former Hawaii coach. “;At the same time, if Hawaii needs an adjustment in the kickoff time at San Jose Sate or at Fresno, I think that school could accommodate them.

“;I think that's a conversation that needs to be had. Now, whether anything can be done, I have no idea.”;

Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan said Fresno State officials contacted him in the spring about possibly playing this season's game in Honolulu at 2 or 3 p.m. But the possible hardship on the fans with the mid-afternoon start and the presence of the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet led UH to keep the game at 6.

As for future dates, with the swap meet no longer held on game days, Donovan said an earlier kickoff might be “;something we would consider if Aloha Stadium was OK with it and if it was only an hour or a half-hour (change).”;

The California schools have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Employees in the state university system have taken a 10 percent pay cut and will take 24 furlough days during the fiscal year.

“;The cuts are a real thing and we just have to see what the state mandates,”; Tomey said. “;I don't think we're going to be greatly affected when it comes down to what we have to do to play the game.”;

As all of the schools deal with the shrinking budgets, Benson said help will come next year when the league's revenues are boosted by a new ESPN contract and the new BCS rights fee which offers higher payouts to the conferences.

State of the WAC

Benson touted the WAC's recent stability during his remarks yesterday, citing five years of steady membership and he foresees at least five more with the current nine-team alignment.

He said the WAC Board of Directors and Athletic Directors met in June and “;put to rest the notion the WAC is interested in going to 10 teams.”;

As for rumblings that Boise State may be eyeing a move to the Mountain West Conference, Benson said he is in contact with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson and doesn't “;sense there's the momentum by the Mountain West. It appears they're satisfied with their existing membership.”;

Speaking of the MWC ...

Benson said it was “;unfortunate”; the MWC campaigned against the BCS on its own this offseason.

“;It was disappointing. ... It did create some angst, yet we all recognize what they were attempting to do was needed,”; Benson said. “;We just wish there had been more inclusion in how they did it.”;

Still, Benson anticipates the leagues working together to try to bring about greater access for non-BCS conferences and would like to see WAC schools schedule more games with the MWC.

Difference in philosophy

One means of generating funds is playing road games against big-name opponents for big paydays. It's a strategy San Jose State is following and one Louisiana Tech is shifting away from.

SJSU opens at USC this season and has road games against Alabama, Wisconsin and Utah next year.

“;(Playing USC) is a good challenge. I see it as a real opportunity also,”; Tomey said.

“;If you're a golfer you'd love a chance to play at Augusta. Now it might tear you a new one, but you can't wait to tee it up.”;

LaTech head coach and athletic director Derek Dooley said he's moving away from scheduling one-time road games in favor of home-and-home arrangements.

“;Although it's appealing when the check comes in, it's not my belief that's the best way to build a program,”; Dooley said.

Fresno State has a typically challenging nonconference schedule with games at Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Illinois.

“;What would Fresno State be without a tough schedule?”; Bulldogs receiver Marlon Moore said.