Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, November 13, 1999

Senior Bowl a delicate
decision for three ’Bows

AH. Ain't winning fun? Just ask the Hawaii football Rainbows and the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League.

A year ago, the Rams finished tied for last in the NFC West with a 4-12 record and didn't have a single player in the Pro Bowl.

Now, Rams' coach Dick Vermeil is a genius and five of his players, including quarterback Kurt Warner, were among the 11 named to Sports Illustrated's Midseason All-Pro Team on offense.

A year ago, the Rainbows were 0-12 with nobody on the roster worth drafting, according to NFL scouts.

Now, offensive tackles Kaulana Noa and Adrian Klemm and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich are getting a serious look by the same scouts.

Like I said, what a difference when you're winning. Besides having fun as well.

I bring the subject up because Noa, Klemm and Ulbrich - who played in virtual anonymity during UH's winless years - have committed to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 14.

Great, you say.

Well, not to Lenny Klompus, who runs the Hula Bowl the same weekend. The same trio had been invited earlier this season to play in the Hula Bowl.

KLOMPUS can't be too happy that they would pick the Senior Bowl over the Hula Bowl.

"We'd like the Hawaii players to be here, but it's their choice," he said. "This is America. Slavery went out a long time ago. They can go wherever they want."

The reason they're opting for the Senior Bowl at the expense of the home state Hula Bowl - now sponsored by - is that the Mobile game is more NFL-oriented.

The Hula Bowl is the baby of the American Football Coaches Association, so its ties are stronger collegiately.

Hearing their rationale, you can't blame the Hawaii players.

"Since it's the game run by the NFL, I thought this would give me the best chance at getting a good look," Ulbrich told the Star-Bulletin.

Rainbow coach June Jones, though a miracle worker, wants no part of being in the middle of any wrangling between the two senior all-star games for his players.

He's leaving the decision up to them.

"That's their future, not mine. I'm not going to try to tell them what to do because it's ultimately their choice," he said.

JONES, though, doesn't want the Hula Bowl selection committee to harbor any grudges toward his football program in the future.

Klompus is not hesitant in playing the loyalty card.

"There's also such a thing as loyalty. We have taken Hawaii players over the years, who wouldn't have gone anywhere without us," he said.

"And coaches on the selection committee are not going to look so favorably if there are open slots. They're old coaches with long memories."

Klompus wanted to clear the air of a wrong perception taken by some at UH: that there are more NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl than at the Hula Bowl. "Not true," he said.

Noa, Klemm and Ulbrich will be the first from UH to play in the Senior Bowl since Al Noga in 1987. The only other 'Bow was Jeris White in 1974.

Tip-toeing through the situation is touchy PR. But there's a positive spin on it.

With the three Rainbows headed to the Senior Bowl, opportunity opens up for several 'Bows - maybe Quincy LeJay, Chad Shrout and Dwight Carter - to play in the Hula Bowl, which they wouldn't have had otherwise.

Isn't more the merrier?

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

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