Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Hawaii bowl
game still possible

It would be difficult, but not
out of the question, to lure a college
postseason game to
the 50th state

By Paul Arnett

It's possible a bowl game could be played here this Christmas if several complicated scenarios fall into place, sources told the Star-Bulletin yesterday.

First, a bowl with a certified license would have to be willing to move here on short notice. At last week's NCAA meetings in Florida, several bowls were reportedly on shaky financial ground and might be willing to listen to a viable offer to play at Aloha Stadium.

Second, a major network would have to be involved. ABC-TV officials are reportedly upset with Aloha Sports Inc. executive director Fritz Rohlfing for not only moving the Aloha and Oahu bowls to the mainland, but breaking a contract that calls for the games to be played on Christmas Day.

Rohlfing already has indicated that if someone wanted to hold a bowl on Christmas Day here, he wouldn't object. He also said if he can't reach a new agreement with ABC and ESPN to broadcast the Jeep Seattle Bowl on Jan. 2 or the Jeep San Francisco Bowl on Dec. 30, that he would look at other network options, presumably Fox.

Several sources indicated ABC doesn't want to give up the Christmas Day time slot that has produced solid national ratings for the better part of 20 years. Bowls with sponsor ties to computer corporations -- like the Bowl, which still hasn't been certified by the NCAA to play this year -- are reportedly hurting. Hula Bowl officials know all about that, after former title sponsor went belly-up last month.

Third, the University of Hawaii and the Western Athletic Conference would need to be on board. Granted, Hawaii can't appear to be buying a bowl game, but UH athletic department officials could convince commissioner Karl Benson that this is an excellent opportunity for the beleaguered WAC to possibly receive national coverage on ABC.

Currently, the WAC has ties to the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, which remains on solid financial footing, and the Silicon Valley Football Classic in San Jose, Calif. Originally, the latter game was supposed to pay the teams $1 million apiece.

But like other bowls with ties to the volatile computer industry, sponsorship money wasn't as readily available as first expected. The game between Fresno State and the Air Force Academy proved to be a success, but money figures to be tight again this year, especially with the Jeep San Francisco Bowl set to enter the Bay Area market.

The WAC and ESPN are also close to announcing a deal for football and basketball, which could give UH and the WAC the avenue it needs to convince parent company ABC of its involvement. The WAC Council has recommended the presidents of its member universities that the league accept the ESPN proposal.

UH officials have indicated several times that they want to do all they can to have a bowl game here as quickly as possible. But with the current NCAA moratorium on new bowls in place through 2002, it doesn't look good.

It's also possible Rohlfing won't be able to get a deal done in San Francisco in time for the December date. If that happens, then he can hold the Aloha Bowl here on Christmas Day. He already has the NCAA's blessing because he listed Honolulu as a possible site in his meetings last week.

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