[ UH FOOTBALL ]
UH trip is no
On the road for two games
means the football team must
strategize its travel logistics
This is not your everyday road trip for the Hawaii football team.
In fact, it's been 12 years since a UH football squad has spent this much time away from the islands at one stretch, playing back-to-back road games on successive weekends.
The Warriors left Honolulu bound for California last Thursday afternoon and return 10 days later on a predawn flight.
"We've never had a trip this long. I don't know how to pack," UH receiver Britton Komine said prior to the team's departure. "I know I don't want to be wearing the same sweats every day. I have to bring some magazines, because we're going to get bored on the bus rides and plane rides and I hear we're having study hall two hours a night, so we've got to bring our books and stuff and get our homework from our teachers.
"I'll probably bring two bags."
On the field, the trip got off to a rocky start to say the least, as the Warriors absorbed a 61-32 loss to No. 4 Southern California on Saturday. They'll hole up in nearby Ontario, Calif., until tomorrow, then head east to Las Vegas for Friday's nonconference game at UNLV.
Away from the stadium, with 10 days and two games away from home, keeping 63 football players housed, fed and healthy takes a considerable bit of coordination and communication and a couple of boxes of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts certainly doesn't hurt (more on the candy later).
While the trip to USC and UNLV is a sizable task, it's not quite as arduous as the last time UH doubled up on a road trip. In 1991, the Rainbows opened the season with a game at Wyoming and played at Iowa the following week. After beating Wyoming, the team went through Denver and stayed in a Chicago suburb a few days before moving on to Iowa City.
(The Rainbows opened the 1992 season with road games at Oregon and Air Force, but returned home between games.)
The logistics of a road trip are arranged by administrative assistant Bianca Tokumoto and begin as soon as a date is booked and the game time finalized.
The Warriors left Honolulu on an Aloha Airlines charter flight bound for Burbank last Thursday and bused to Ontario after the USC game.
The UH caravan will take a one-hour flight to Las Vegas on Thursday. On Friday, they'll leave Las Vegas immediately after the game and are scheduled to return to Honolulu at 3 a.m. Saturday.
Having a charter allows the team to load up the plane with equipment and supplies without worrying about weight limitations, a problem teams often face when they travel to Hawaii on commercial flights.
Ken Fujimura said Appalachian State had to use a freight company to get its gear to Honolulu for the Aug. 30 season opener while the players and coaches took a commercial flight.
The players are responsible for packing their own equipment, but the managers inspect every bag to make sure nothing essential is left behind.
"In the past some guys didn't even pack their shoulder pads, even a helmet," said Fujimura, now in his 31st year as equipment manager. "Now one at a time ... we check their bags and make sure they have all their stuff inside of it."
In addition to game and practice uniforms, the managers bring along a trunk filled with extra pads and helmets in case of breakage as well as spare gloves and shoes.
Fujimura said the only incident where equipment didn't arrive where it was supposed to came early in his career when the Rainbows played an intrasquad game on a neighbor island.
"I thought I had everything, but I forgot the footballs," Fujimura said. "It was an interisland flight, so it wasn't too bad."
The University of Hawaii football team is on a 10-day road trip, with mainland games on two weekends. The trip got off to a rough start last weekend, as the Warriors got pounded by the University of Southern California. In one first-half play in Saturday's game, UH's Michael Brewster got tackled by USC's Melvin Simmons.
On most road trips, the team will have one practice the day before the game. With four extra practices to plan for on this trip, UH trainer Eric Okasaki said he'll pack at least 30 additional cases of athletic tape for the trip in addition to the medical equipment the team usually takes on the road.
Both the equipment and training staff also depend on the cooperation of the host school to provide essential services for the players.
"No matter what sport it is, hopefully you're going to be prepared for whatever occurs and that's where the host school becomes important," Okasaki said. "To have a good relationship with your opponents off the field becomes critical in case you need their help."
Which is where the candy comes in.
During a family vacation this summer, Okasaki stopped by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to get a look at the locker room setup. While there, he dropped off a small gift for the operations manager at the stadium.
"He was very appreciative, and when you call them they remember that," Okasaki said. "You'd be amazed how much some candies goes. ... We've always done that wherever we travel."
The goodwill helps ensure the team has all the towels, ice and other essentials it needs before and after the games.
"We've been good to a lot of schools that come over here, so they reciprocate and do the same thing," Fujimura said.
The dining habits of the five dozen-plus football players are largely controlled by the coaches while on the road. The team eats all of its meals together in the banquet hall of the hotel, with the buffet menu picked out by the coaching staff.
Hitting the books
With the fall semester just getting started, seven schools days away from class can put a student-athlete in a hole academically.
To make sure they keep up, the players are required to make arrangements with their professors to have their assignments laid out before they leave and the team will have daily study halls.
"You've got to let the teachers know and get done what you can before you leave and make sure they understand," junior receiver Chad Owens said. "It's your responsibility to make it up."
Graduate student Shana Isobe accompanied the team as a tutor to monitor study halls and make sure assignments are turned in on time.
While she might not be able to answer all of the players' questions, Isobe's role is more to get them pointed in the right direction.
"She's very versatile, but she also knows how to learn and how to help people find their own answers," said Jennifer Matsuda, department chair of student-academic services. "Having the patience to sit with someone and having them find their own answers is probably the most valuable thing."
Along with helmets and books, the Warriors left Honolulu with hopes of a successful trip packed with them. Following the loss to USC, the team is getting ready to head up to Las Vegas hoping they won't return empty-handed in the win column.
"You're going for two weeks and you've got a job to do and that's what you're trying to get done," UH coach June Jones said. "Go up there and win."
Star-Bulletin reporter Dave Reardon contributed to this story.