Star-Bulletin Sports


Duva helps athletes
make catch

The former Hawaii player matches
students with the right college

By Dave Reardon

Jeff Duva was merely putting his experience and his University of Hawaii business degree to use to make a living. Little did he know he was blazing a trail for a multimillion dollar industry.

After a football playing and coaching career that took him through four colleges in eight years, the former quarterback began playing matchmaker for student-athletes and colleges in 1982.

This was when most people thought recruitnik was something the Russians put into space. It was a time when fans had no access to tools like the Internet to learn if five-star prospects were considering their favorite school.

Duva, 46, is the president of College Sports USA, which also produces PrepStar Magazine and PrepStar Online. He and former UH teammate Jack Wright founded the company together, and remain partners. It was the first serious venture of its kind in a market that has grown exponentially along with the nationwide interest in recruiting.

"He was a pioneer at scouting. Probably the first to organize it the way he did," said Dick Tomey, Duva's coach at UH.

A big part of the business is supplying information about high-profile prospects, which Duva does with a three-times-a-year magazine and online updates. But Duva said the driving force for him is helping everyday high school athletes find schools where they can continue playing their sports.

"On the publishing side with the magazine, a lot of it is fan interest and Internet-fueled. People want to follow the big (football) names. Some feel this is really overblown," Duva said. "But our service is not really for the headliners. It's for solid students who want to keep playing sports, whether it be a Division II soccer player or a softball player or a volleyball player."

... In 1978, Jeff Duva (right) passed for 1,463 yards and 14 touchdowns as Hawaii went 6-5. His school record of 11 consecutive passes completed, set on Nov. 18 in a 28-22 victory over Wyoming, still stands.

In their last season as an independent, the Rainbows went 3-2 against opponents from the Western Athletic Conference, which they would join the next season. UH closed the season by playing powerful Southern California close before losing 21-5.

Today, Duva remains close to football, especially recruiting, as the publisher of PrepStar Magazine and PrepStar Online.

UH sailing team member (and former swimmer) Melody Torres is among the thousands of athletes Duva's company has helped place in colleges.

Duva said his own experience of not being offered a scholarship from his dream school, UCLA, out of high school (he "settled" for Brigham Young) and transferring twice (to San Diego State and UH) made him want to help other athletes' transition from high school.

"It started based on my personal experiences," he said. "I had a lot of great opportunities and experiences, but I went to three different universities before I found a home. I also realized that a lot of young athletes get lost in a shuffle with no opportunities."

After attaining his business degree and staying on for two years as a graduate assistant at UH, Duva became the offensive coordinator at Cal State Northridge.

"When I got into coaching, there were seven guys on our staff trying to cover 10,000 high schools (for recruiting purposes)," he said. "That's when I came up with the concept of aggregating information from across the country into a central data base and sending that information out to college football programs."

Dennis Grzesik, who has worked for CSA for several years, said Duva's credibility as a former college athlete helps the business.

"He's been through it himself and he knows what he's doing. He's got the right idea," Grzesik said. "And he's fun to work for, not like a typical boss."

DUVA SAID he's asked at least once a week to tell the story about how he and his Hawaii teammates almost beat one of the best teams in college football history.

"I'm looking at a picture from that game on my desk right now," Duva said in a phone interview from his Woodland Hills, Calif., office, when asked about USC's 21-5 victory over UH on Dec. 2, 1978 at Aloha Stadium. "Some people say that was the greatest college team of all time. About 16 guys went to the pros. It was my dream to beat SC in a game like that."

It almost happened, and Duva had it nearly in his grasp for a split second.

"That game set a standard for us," Tomey said. "It showed that we were always going to compete no matter who it was. We would take on anyone and fight them to the end."

The Rainbows, who went into their season-ending game 5-5, played the eventual national champions nearly even for 55 minutes. The Trojans -- with players like Charles White, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz and Marcus Allen, just for starters (actually Allen wasn't one) -- led 7-3 with time running down.

But UH drove deep into USC territory.

Tomey then called a trick play where running back David Toloumu threw a pass for the wide-open Duva in the end zone.

"It was a great play and we caught them off guard. I was wide open, but I was going kind of half-throttle. I was able to speed up and got to it and stuck my hands out," Duva said. "And then I discovered I had two bricks instead of hands. Every time I see (then USC coach) John Robinson he makes me tell the story, and he talks about how he saw the national championship going up in flames.

"I could have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated if I'd caught it," Duva said.

It didn't turn out so bad. He ended up with his own magazine.

Jeff Duva didn't complete the play in 1978 that could have given UH its biggest football upset victory ever. But he rarely drops the ball when matching up student-athletes and colleges.

"Our success ratio is over 90 percent in placing students," Duva said. "It helps that we've been doing it for quite a while. To my knowledge I guess I'm the godfather of this industry. In 1982 an industry was born."

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