Sunday, March 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

UH fertile ground for future coaches

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist

Joe Paterno was glad to get one and so were Texas and Texas A&M. Notre Dame came looking, as did Washington and a couple of NFL teams.

From State College, Pa., to College Station, Texas, former University of Hawaii players and those who started their coaching careers there have become much sought-after additions to the coaching staffs of some of the marquee schools in college football.

In a week in which UH opened spring football, M*noa was not the only place where Warriors were making headlines.

Texas sent a private plane to bring Duane Akina and his family in for an interview and then opened wide its wallet to make sure he stayed. And Arizona screamed to high heaven when he got away.

Penn State rolled out the red carpet to lure Brian Norwood from Texas Tech and Texas A&M won a four-school pursuit of Dino Babers.

For an institution 2,500 miles removed from the heartbeat of major college football, UH is opening eyes as a launching pad for coaches. For a school still building its own tradition, its graduates are in demand to help wake the echoes at cathedrals of the sport elsewhere.

Nearly 20 current Division I coaches played their college ball or got their foot in the coaching door here. It is a coaching rainbow that stretches nationwide — and beyond.

"That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it," said Dick Tomey, for whom most of them either played or got their start in coaching.

"Everywhere you look there are ex-’Bows," said Ken Niumatalolo of Nevada-Las Vegas.

"When you go to the annual (coaches’) convention you see how many there really are," Norwood said.

"The number of guys out there are a tribute to Dick (Tomey) and Wags (Bob Wagner)," said Akina, who had been washing dishes in a Waikiki restaurant when Tomey gave him a coaching job at UH in 1981; Wagner was his coordinator.

"When you’ve played for Dick or coached for him you’ve gotten a pretty good foundation," Akina said. "And a lot of coaches around the country know that."

"Actually," Tomey jokes, "these guys are rid of me so they can get better jobs now."

Babers says, "the guys that have come through UH have been fortunate to get some solid coaching from some good people. I know from all the positions I played at UH and all the coaches I had — (Bob) Wagner, (George) Lumpkin, Daryl (Edralin) — they were coaches who were teachers first; people who loved the game and passed on that feeling. Just like June (Jones) does now"

Their success is something of a mixed blessing. Those who have gone through UH have taken with them an appreciation of the football played in Hawaii. And many of them come back at letter of intent time to try and convince some of the high school talent to go with them, as Akina and Norwood say they hope to do.

Still, the deepening pool of alumni give UH a rich, experienced resource to draw upon for future staff openings. "I know I want to get back there someday," Norwood said. "I’d like to bring it full circle and I’m not the only one because, for us, UH is always gonna be home "

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