WAC not ready
for instant replay

» UH's last line of defense

RENO, Nev. » According to its new marketing plan unveiled yesterday, the Western Athletic Conference will "Play Up." But WAC commissioner Karl Benson said the league decided not to pay up for instant replay as an officiating aid this year.

The WAC and the Sun Belt, which will both experiment with instant replay this season, are the only two Division I-A football conferences not implementing it as a method to overturn incorrect calls.

Benson, speaking at the WAC's Football Media Days, said 16 conference games would not have had television cameras available, and the WAC board decided to not spend the $25,000 per game to make replay available at them.

"We could've gone out and spent several thousand dollars self-producing the 16 games," Benson said. "But being an experiment (the WAC board) didn't think it was a cost-efficient project."

Hawaii -- which plays at Aloha Stadium, which is equipped with Jumbotron equipment and has every game televised -- has more than enough camera coverage to facilitate instant replay, UH associate athletic director John McNamara said.

The NCAA will likely require instant replay in 2006 or 2007, Benson said.

The WAC will experiment with digital computer technology called "Nalu Capture," which was developed by Hawaii company Nalu Technologies, to aid in replay facilitation.

Nalu CEO Rick Levine is also working with FanCast TV and WAC officials here this week on a proposal that involves video streaming of conference sports events for pay-per-view.

"We've been talking to Karl about providing systems and services," Levine said. "We're also developing a package that includes tape exchange and training DVDs for officials. We're very pleased with their interest. We hope we're part of the solution, but we don't know where it will end up yet."

Levine said the NFL is among Nalu's clients and the Honolulu-based company is also working with other college conferences.

Benson said the plan is for the WAC to supply member schools with the equipment for instant replay and video streaming, and the schools can keep money made from pay-per-view.

McNamara said UH -- which is expanding its own pay-per-view TV package this year -- is communicating with the WAC to coordinate efforts in that area. UH wants to produce video-streamed events on the Internet as early as this year, he said.

"That's the goal, but there are a lot of hurdles," McNamara said. "We've had discussions with the conference, an ongoing dialogue, and the hope is the two can merge together. Obviously, everything is tentative and preliminary."

The "Play Up" marketing campaign highlights the WAC's reputation of having teams like nationally-ranked Fresno State and Boise State that "play up" to competition from conferences that get more national respect. Benson said marketing is important now because the WAC has added three schools: Idaho, Utah State and New Mexico State.

"Teams go from good to great in the WAC," Benson said. "The WAC is at a tipping point, and our nine members are prepared to be successful."

Benson said he and WAC staff will visit each WAC school this year as part of the "Play Up" plan. He will be at Aloha Stadium for UH's season-opening game Sept. 3 against USC.

He declined to say exactly how much money the WAC budgeted for the marketing plan.

"I can't elaborate on the financials. I can say it's twice as much as last year. It's six figures," Benson said.

» Benson also said he is "confident" a spot in either the Liberty Bowl or the San Francisco Bowl could be made available to the WAC if the conference needs more than the two WAC-tied games (the Hawaii Bowl and the MPC Computers Bowl) at the end of the season.

The possibility does remain, though, that Hawaii might not have a bowl game if it does not finish first or second in the conference.

"We did change our bowl policy. We have maintained protection for the champion and the No. 2 team," Benson said. "There is a clause that should the WAC secure a third bowl spot and UH is eligible, it backs into a guaranteed spot for Hawaii."

Benson said a Liberty Bowl tie-in for the WAC champion has had "serious discussion" and "it's still being considered."

Boise State played in the Liberty Bowl last year.

» In the WAC preseason media poll released yesterday, Hawaii was picked to finish third.

The Warriors are coming off an 8-5 season, their fourth consecutive winning year. But UH must replace seven starters on offense, including record-setting quarterback Tim Chang and star receiver Chad Owens.

"I know we'll have to grow up fast to be good," UH coach June Jones said. "It's going to be kind of a learning experience."

Boise State was picked by 43 of 57 voters to win its fourth WAC championship in a row. Fresno State got the other 14 votes, and was chosen to finish second.

After Hawaii at third, the order is Nevada, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State and Idaho.

"It's obviously exciting (to be picked to finish first)," Boise State linebacker Korey Hall said. "We still have to go out and work hard. I don't think anyone's just going to give it up to us because we're BSU. We're looking forward to having everyone gun for us."

Broncos quarterback Jared Zabransky was picked as the preseason offensive player of the year.

Fresno State defensive lineman Garrett McIntyre was predicted to be the defensive player of the year.

» Former Hawaii defensive tackle Lui Fuga was released by the San Diego Chargers on Tuesday. Fuga was trying out for the team as a free agent.

Another Chargers free agent from UH, cornerback Abraham Elimimian, is off to a good start. Elimimian, working out with the second-team defense, intercepted two passes Tuesday. Yesterday, he broke up another pass that led to a teammate's interception.

"I'm just trying to do what I can do," Elimimian said. "So far so good. But it's a process."

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