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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Tougher schedules would benefit UH

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist

What happened to the University of Hawai'i Sunday night should be a wake-up call for more than just the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team.

The sweep of the previously unbeaten and untested No. 1 Rainbow Wahine by competition-hardened Stanford underlined the perils of playing a Charmin-soft schedule and the worth of a marquee opponent.

Fortunately for the 23-1 Rainbow Wahine, the fall occurred before the point-of-no-return in the NCAA playoffs and shouldn't be fatal for their final four hopes. Now, at least, they have seen where they need to be and should be able to pick up the pieces in time to get to New Orleans.

In the meantime, you hope the lesson also hit home with other teams in Manoa as they set about filling their schedules.

The expected addition of Michigan State to the football schedules in 2004, '05 and '07 is a move in the right direction. But more are needed and on several fronts.

Consider the UH men's basketball team, with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tennessee Tech, etc., on the schedule, might have trouble getting an at-large ticket punched to the NCAA Tournament even if it wins 23 games this season.

Football, if it didn't have a backyard bowl, might have gone unrewarded in the postseason again even with another stellar record. And we all know what fate the Ratings Percentage Index helped deal the Rainbow Wahine basketball team eight months ago.

Then, there is the financial bottom line. Once upon a time fans came out just to see their UH teams against practically anybody — Abilene Christian in football or Westmont in basketball. The games themselves were events. But no longer. With so many other entertainment choices, opponents matter.

If UH expects to expand its pay-per-view offerings — as the school has talked about— fans are going to want brand names for the money. If UH is going to ask for higher premium seating donations — as it is moving toward doing — then their customers are going to expect better attractions.

Hawai'i fans have shown, as the sellout of the Stanford match reaffirmed, that they will line up for a compelling opponent but will carefully pick through the no-names.

That's why, from the time individual game tickets went on sale, you knew the Stanford match was headed for a sellout. And why several of the other games never would.

Now, some things are beyond UH's control like in-conference scheduling. Teams break contracts. Scheduling is complicated by the plethora of exempted events and some teams that were good when they were scheduled turn out to be something else when they show up.

But where UH can improve its schedules it needs to go that extra mile to do so.