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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 10:53 a.m., Thursday, May 16, 2002

Cougars near escaping UH game here

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Washington State is close to securing a replacement that would allow the Cougars to get out of playing the University of Hawai'i in a Nov. 30 football game at Aloha Stadium.

The Cougars have sought to escape playing here after the Pac-10 Conference shuffled the schedule. Instead of ending the regular season in Hawai'i, the Cougars now will finish with a Dec. 7 conference game against UCLA.

UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida declined to identify the possible replacement, saying releasing the name at this time would be "a deal-breaker." An announcement is expected next month.

But because Washington State is a Bowl Championship Series contender and features Heisman Trophy hopeful Jason Gesser, a former St. Louis School quarterback, the only acceptable replacement must be a "BCS-caliber team," Yoshida said.

"Those are real considerations," Yoshida said. "That's the reason we need to get an opponent that's at the same BCS caliber."

UH also would not seek financial sanctions against Washington State for breaking the commitment at this late date. In exchange, the Cougars are expected to agree to play here in 2003 and, possibly, 2007.

If the switch is approved, UH still would charge a premium fee of about $5 per ticket for the game, with the projected gross revenue more than $650,000 about the same as if Washington State were the opponent.

Yoshida said season tickets, which were to be mailed out in July, will not be delayed.

Yoshida said ESPN, which expressed interest in moving the WSU-UH game to Nov. 29 and televising it nationally, is expected to cover the game with the replacement team. But Yoshida said the game will remain on Nov. 30.

UH coach June Jones said, "I'll deal with it when (the change is) a fact. We're playing Washington State right now. I would like to play (the Cougars) because they beat us the last time we played."

Said Yoshida: "As long as the university is protected, that's the main thing. Our fans deserve a high-profile opponent on Thanksgiving weekend. Those are the considerations we're working for."