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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 14, 2001

No 13th game for UH football team

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The NCAA yesterday rejected the University of Hawai'i's request to play a 13th football game this season.

An NCAA official told UH officials that it would set a bad precedent to certify extra games to teams who feel slighted by not receiving bowl berths.

"It was a long shot, but we had to try," UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida said. "I think our student-athletes deserved another shot to play. The effort was something we needed to do. It was one of those situations where we couldn't deliver."

Despite winning eight of their final nine games to finish the regular season with a 9-3 record, the Warriors did not receive either of the Western Athletic Conference's two bowl berths.

Several UH players had mixed feelings about playing an extra game, and some believed it would have been difficult to improve upon Saturday's 72-45 rout of previously undefeated Brigham Young.

"You can't top the BYU game," said slotback Craig Stutzmann, whose UH football career ended with yesterday's announcement. "No other regular-season game can top that game. To go out like that is what every senior wanted."

Junior wide receiver Ashley Lelie said "a lot of the players didn't care for the extra game unless we were going to play a big-name team that would really help the program."

When told the team would not have to play, Lelie said, "We're cool with that. We're ready to move on."

This season, most NCAA Division I-A teams were limited to 11 regular-season games. A 12th game was allowed for UH and for teams playing in Hawai'i or in NCAA-exempted games.

But Monday, UH president Evan Dobelle petitioned the NCAA for a 13th game. According to the proposal sent to the NCAA, the game would be played at 4 p.m. Christmas Day at Aloha Stadium. After expenses, proceeds would go to the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said he secured a commitment from ESPN to televise the game nationally.

Dobelle said he received $500,000 in sponsorship pledges from local companies, and UH associate athletic director Jim Donovan said he arranged hotel and travel accommodations for the visiting team.

In a statement released to the media, Dobelle said WAC member Rice, which defeated UH Sept. 29 at Aloha Stadium, had agreed to play a rematch.

Yoshida said Wake Forest, Alabama-Birmingham and Bowling Green also expressed interest in playing in the game. But Yoshida said UH needed NCAA approval by yesterday afternoon to work on the game's logistics.

A special NCAA committee discussed the matter, and issued its ruling yesterday afternoon.

"I'm appreciative of the people who tried to make it work," UH coach June Jones said. "But we always anticipated BYU would be our bowl game."

Yesterday, the UH coaches and players met in what turned out to be a farewell meeting.

"It was closure for the seniors," Stutzmann said. "This was kind of a goodbye to the seniors. It was a chance to tell the underclassmen to 'get your butt in gear.' As (strength coach) Mel deLaura said, 'Championships are won in the offseason.' "