Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, October 16, 1999

Dark thoughts during
UH’s bye week

HERE it is, in the middle of the football season, and Hawaii fans are twiddling their thumbs because the Rainbows have the week off.

The 'Bows resume action next week at Tulsa. The game won't be televised locally except by GTE's digital Americast television service, on its Fox Sports West II channel 65.

So unless you or a friend has this service, you won't get to see the football 'Bows until Oct. 30, which until recently, was to have been the last time I would be writing about UH football.

Well, we got a stay of execution.

But that got me to thinking about how terrible it would be for UH fans and the community in general if the Rainbows never played football again.

What a vacuum that would be during the football season. Aloha Stadium officials would be singing, "Turn out the lights, the party's over."

It's not that farfetched, you know.

New coach June Jones has done a remarkable job in turning around a moribund football program, so that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for the Rainbows.

Along came Jones to bring the football program from out of the dark ages it went through the previous four years.

The football 'Bows are starting to get competitive again. And, thankfully, just in time.

HAD the football program continued its slide, Aloha Stadium -- for which the UH football program was really built -- would have seen a lot of dark Saturday nights.

While the jet age has made travel easier and locales closer, they're benefits that have come at a steep price.

With gender equity adding a financial crunch in collegiate sports, UH is finding itself on shakier ground each succeeding year.

It wouldn't be so bad if football can be viewed by gender benders as an anomaly - there's no corresponding sport for women - and that its number of scholarships shouldn't be counted in the equation.

Unfortunately, it is, and UH is all the worse for it.

The reason is obvious. No college spends more in travel than Hawaii - a million dollars a year at last budget count.

Imagine if, on top of that, UH had to pay a travel subsidy for teams to come here as it once did.

Eventually, the university might have to do it again to be viewed as a viable member of the Western Athletic Conference or any other conference.

Already, there have been some rumblings - or should we say, grumblings - to that effect.

YOU hate to see it as one of the contingencies of being a conference member, but it might happen some day. For now, at least for the next two years, the WAC appears to be stable.

"I'm tired of hearing rumors every six months that somebody will leave," said UH president Kenneth Mortimer, who's at a special meeting tomorrow in Denver to discuss league plans.

"But, I'm sure the next one will be that Fresno State will be asked to join the Mountain West Conference."

The college football landscape will continue to change. But UH needs to keep a viable athletic program so as not to get buried when the changes occur.

The best and maybe only way to be viable is to be very competitive so that ticket revenues can help keep the program financially stable.

Otherwise, there will only be dark and lonely Saturday nights for UH fans during the football season.

The 'Bows wouldn't just have a bye. They'd be bye-bye.

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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