Jones appreciates
value of WAC

With a possible nationwide
conference shake-up in the works,
he's happy with Hawaii's affiliation

Independence Day is not on the Hawaii sports calendar.

Football coach June Jones has often mused in passing about UH possibly becoming an independent, at least in his sport. But he now agrees with conventional wisdom and athletic director Herman Frazier that the Warriors need conference affiliation to survive.

"It would be tough to schedule without a conference. Maybe we can't do that," said Jones, who, along with Frazier, returned from the Western Athletic Conference football coaches and athletic directors meetings in Phoenix last week.

Last year there were only six independent Division I-A football teams -- Navy, Troy State, Utah State, Connecticut, Notre Dame and South Florida (which joins Conference USA this year). Hawaii has been a WAC member since 1979, and independent prior.

The issue of conference affiliation is bigger than ever -- for all Division I schools -- because of a possible shake-up that could send tremors throughout college sports. Miami and possibly Syracuse and Boston College could leave the Big East to make the ACC a 12-team league; that could cause a chain reaction of conferences scrambling for new members.

The latest from the ACC's spring meetings is that North Carolina State president Marye Anne Fox might control the swing vote for whether the conference extends an invitation to Miami or not. That invitation -- which Miami would reportedly accept -- would be the first event that some contend could end with 60 teams in five power conferences breaking away from the rest.

Jones said he has no idea what will happen, and he doesn't know if UH has enough profitability and leverage to end up with a good seat in a game of musical conferences. He said although the WAC is one of the so-called midmajor conferences, the league and most of the member schools are on solid ground.

"Our WAC football schedule gives us the type of teams that are underrated. I'd rather play them than some of the big-name teams from big-name conferences. Teams like Fresno State and Rice are underestimated and Boise State is as good as anyone, anywhere."

But can Hawaii survive a major upheaval?

"I don't really know what will happen when that fallout happens. Who knows?" said Jones, who has led UH to a 31-20 record and two bowl games in his four seasons. "What I do know is we're getting better and better as a football team and can compete against anyone. The kids feel that way, too. The NFL Draft shows we're viable as a program, that we have a talent pool. We're willing to play the nation's best teams and prove we're deserving of positive fallout."

Jones hopes UH can improve its marketability by looking west, toward Japan. He wants to play games there and recruit Japanese players in the future.

The Warriors could play a game against another American college team there in 2004, and Jones wants to take the team there next summer for a cultural exchange with a Japanese college team.

"We were hoping, thought that maybe we could go this July," Jones said. "Next year for sure and I feel pretty sure we can have a game there in 2004."

Jones said Fresno State and Notre Dame have gone to Japan in recent years for cultural exchanges called "challenge matches." Real games aren't played, but players from the American and Japanese teams are intermingled and they scrimmage, Jones said.

Jones said he and Frazier have discussed the possibility of playing in Japan, and running backs coach Wes Suan has acted as liaison with coach Kazuki Omura and Osaka Gaukin University athletic director Chad Ngai, who visited UH during spring practice.

"There are finances to consider and it's still a ways off, but there's a strong desire to do it," Suan said. "We're checking on the NCAA implications."

A game in Japan might not be exempt, meaning it would count against the participating schools' schedule limits, Suan said.

Short yardage: Sophomore running back Pesefea Fiaseu will "definitely" return for football fall camp, Suan said. Fiaseu sat out spring practice for personal reasons. ... Jones said there is nothing new regarding his contract negotiations or the hiring of a new defensive coordinator. He said previously he wants to have the contract done by the Aug. 30 start of the season, and the defensive coordinator in place in July.

UH Athletics


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --