Sports Notebook

Friday, July 27, 2001


UH shuffles D-line
after Fuga hurts shoulder

By Paul Arnett

RENO, Nevada >> University of Hawaii defensive lineman Lui Fuga could miss as many as the first two games this fall after suffering another shoulder injury in the off-season that required surgery in June.

Warriors associate head coach George Lumpkin said at yesterday's WAC meetings that the second shoulder injury for Fuga this year will force defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa to do some shuffling up front.

Hawaii learned earlier this month that junior college sensation Isaak Sopoaga is not academically sound, leaving a once deep defensive front a little shallow up the middle. So much so, projected defensive end Wayne Hunter will slide over to tackle during fall camp.

That means Kevin Jackson, who played outside linebacker in the spring, will be forced back to end to help fill all the holes created by Sopoaga's academic woes and Fuga's injuries.

Fuga banged up his other shoulder last year, forcing him to undergo off-season surgery that sidelined him during the spring. If the Warriors were playing Montana this weekend, Lumpkin said the starters would likely be Hunter and Mike Iosua at tackle and Laanui Correa and Houston Ala at end.

"We still have a lot of guys we believe can play," Lumpkin said. "And who knows? Lui may be back sooner than we think. He's a tough guy in there. But we're planning on starting the season without him."

Last year, injuries depleted the UH defense, something Lempa hoped to avoid this season. Hawaii had nine different starting defensive linemen in 2000. It definitely hurt the Warriors' continuity up front.

"Injuries are a part of the game," Lumpkin said. "We won't dwell on it. We'll just move forward and see where it takes us."

Aloha to San Francisco: Even if Aloha Sports Inc. chief executive officer Fritz Rohlfing can't land a deal in San Francisco by the Pac-10's imposed deadline Monday, it's still possible the old Aloha Bowl could be played in Anaheim, Calif., on Christmas Day.

"I know they're looking at that as a possibility," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said yesterday. "Here's what I heard was the problem. ABC will only do the game if it's on Christmas, and the organizers in San Francisco refuse to play on that day. So, they're looking at Anaheim as a last-second replacement."

If the deal falls through, it's possible the WAC could end up with a Pac-10 team in either the Silicon Valley Football Classic or the Humanitarian Bowl. It's also possible a team from the Big Ten could play in either of those games if a deal can be worked out by Benson.

"The potential is huge for us," Benson said. "We're also looking at the new bowl game in Houston as a possibility. If the Big 12 (No., 7 team) should fall through in that proposed postseason matchup with a team from Conference USA, then we would even offer our WAC champion if it means getting three teams into the postseason."

A perfect 10: For the first time since 1997, Benson addressed the WAC sports media without having at least one lame-duck team in the league.

It appears the conference will remain intact for at least two more years after the Mountain West extended its moratorium of adding teams through 2004.

"The good thing is, I don't have to fake it when I say I feel like the league is in good shape," Benson said. "For the first time in five years, it looks like we'll remain as we are now, which is good for everybody. I'm excited about our future."

Procuring new television contracts with ESPN and Fox went a long way in helping solidify a league that stretches from Louisiana to Hawaii in one direction and Idaho to Texas in the other.

"If you were going to start a new league, this isn't how you would draw it up," Benson said. "But this is what we have and we have to make the best of it. Our new television deals aren't comparable to that of the Mountain West. But given the current state of the economy, we're lucky ESPN even considered us at all."

The proposed package with Fox probably won't be finished until next week. It calls for five regional broadcasts, including Hawaii's game at Southern Methodist.

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