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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 2, 2001

WAC may play football on Fridays

By Ferd Lewis and Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writers

As part of its proposed new television deal with ESPN, the Western Athletic Conference would play a Friday night game this season, possibly involving the University of Hawai'i, officials said yesterday.

Friday nights, once the exclusive preserve of high schools, were opened to colleges when the NCAA Board of Directors lifted the restriction last week on "non-traditional football windows" as member institutions seek ways to increase television exposure and revenue.

NCAA schools had been prohibited from starting Friday games at 7 p.m. or later.

Both the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have said they will play at least two Friday night games this season.

WAC Presidents this week are expected to review a WAC Council recommendation that the conference sign a multi-year deal with ESPN for football and basketball. The network made a 90-minute proposal to the Council, which is composed of athletic officials, at last weekend's spring meetings.

Part of that deal, if accepted, would involve a Friday game, WAC commissioner Karl Benson confirmed. He said several "possible" games have been "identified," but declined to disclose them.

Hugh Yoshida, UH athletic director, said the Warriors "would consider a Friday night" date if certain logistical issues could be worked out, including game time, venue availability and a swap with whatever high school game was scheduled.

Spokesmen for Hawai'i's high schools indicated they saw no problem in flip-flopping dates if it would enable UH to get national television exposure at Aloha Stadium.

The Warriors' Sept. 8 season opener against Montana on Maui is not under consideration, UH and WAC officials said.

Yoshida said if a UH game were selected, the Warriors would notify high school officials and attempt to swap dates, turning over their traditional Saturday night slot in exchange for a Friday.

Yoshida, a former high school coach, athletic director and O'ahu Interscholastic Association executive secretary, said UH would be sensitive to the high school situation.

Benson added, "Whatever city the (Friday) game would be played in, we'd be sensitive to the impact a game could have" and the decision would be made "in cooperation with the local football community there."

Because of the time difference with the Mainland, UH has frequently kicked around the idea of trying to play some of its home games on Fridays in order to receive more exposure for its program and the state. By the time Saturday night games are completed, most Mainland papers are being printed and UH scores and game reports are left out.

A succession of UH officials have long felt if the school played on Fridays, their scores and highlights would not only make Sunday papers but secure prominent mention on the Saturday college football shows.

"A national Friday night game would really help us from an exposure standpoint," Yoshida said. "It would be a big plus."

Clay Benham, executive secretary of the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu, said, "We would be willing to do everything we could to cooperate."

The public-school OIA would not be affected at all, OIA football coordinator Richard Townsend of Leilehua said, because it has no games scheduled at Aloha Stadium on weekends that UH is at home. The OIA plays there on Friday nights when UH is on the road.

The OIA does much better financially on games played at school fields than at Aloha Stadium, Townsend said.