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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Holiday football bowl in the works

By Stephen Tsai and Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writers

At least two groups are putting together plans to stage a college football bowl game on Christmas Day at Aloha Stadium.

The leading group consists of ESPN Regional Television, the Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA. The other group is backed by Global Events Management, which already owns and operates the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.

Both groups said they would include stipulations to have the University of Hawai'i football team invited to compete in the game as long as the Warriors finish the regular season with a .500 record or better.

However, UH has a "handshake agreement" to work with the ESPN-backed group, according to UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida.

"That's outstanding news," UH coach June Jones said of the bowl plans. "We're grateful for ESPN's commitment to Hawai'i."

A third group, Aloha Sports Inc., may also be working toward staging a bowl game in Hawai'i, although not necessarily on Christmas Day.

"All of this is still premature and it still has to receive certification," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said. "But it's a welcomed surprise and it's obviously good news for the WAC and for the University of Hawai'i."

The potential bowl games became a possibility yesterday when the NCAA board of directors voted to lift a moratorium limiting the number of postseason bowl games. Last season, 26 bowl games were staged, but for the first time since 1982, none were played in Hawai'i.

The ESPN-backed game will tentatively be called the Hawai'i Bowl, although UH associate athletic director Jim Donovan said a title sponsor is being sought. The Global Events Management-backed game has not proposed a name for its bowl yet, although executive director Ken Hoffman said, "We'd like for it to include the name Aloha Bowl, although we still have to check on the legality issues."

Aloha Sports Inc. owned the rights to the Aloha Bowl and O'ahu Bowl, which were last played as a Christmas Day doubleheader at Aloha Stadium in 2000. The O'ahu Bowl was played in Seattle last year, while the Aloha Bowl was not staged after sponsorship deals could not be secured.

Aloha Sports Inc. officials indicated earlier this year that they would like to return the Aloha Bowl to Hawai'i, with a possible Dec. 31 date at Aloha Stadium.

Any potential bowl game must still receive approval from the NCAA's Championship/Competition Cabinet Football Certification subcommittee next month.

"Clearly, there is great interest in staging a game in Honolulu," Hoffman said. "There will be multiple applications seeking a game there. What we're all waiting to find out is how many will actually be certified."

As of yesterday afternoon, the ESPN-backed game appeared to have the most organized plan. ESPN will be the majority owner of the proposed bowl, with the WAC, of which UH is a member, and Conference USA as partners, Donovan said.

The deal would be for four years, and the bowl will match a team from the WAC and Conference USA. But there would be a stipulation that for the first two years, UH will earn the WAC's berth if the Warriors meet the NCAA bowl-eligibility requirement of a 6-6 record or better. Because the Warriors play 13 games this season, they must finish at least 7-6 to play in the bowl. Last season, the Warriors finished 9-3 and did not receive a bowl invitation.

For now, the ESPN-backed bowl plans to pay out the NCAA minimum of $750,000 per participating team. UH's staff members will handle publicity, statistics and game management, Donovan said.

Hoffman did not want to reveal such specific plans for the bowl backed by Global Events Management. He did not say which conferences would be affiliated with the bowl, or how much the teams would get paid. However, he said: "It makes ultimate sense for everyone involved that the University of Hawai'i be eligible for this game as long as they are bowl eligible."

The Motor City Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 26, was televised on ESPN last year and paid $750,000 to its participating teams. If the Global Events Management-backed bowl receives certification in Hawai'i, Hoffman said, the group would continue to operate the Motor City Bowl simultaneously.

In any case, a bowl game could bring in millions of dollars in exposure for Hawai'i's economy.

Benson said the WAC will continue to receive berths in the Silicon Valley Football Classic at San Jose, Calif., and the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

In addition to a bowl game in Hawai'i, the WAC may also seek affiliation with potential new bowl games in San Francisco and Charlotte, N.C.