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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 27, 2003

Hawai'i Bowl will always have a spot for Warriors

 •  UH 'embarrassed' by fight
 •  FERD LEWIS: Jones must put foot down on fighting

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer


Every year the University of Hawai'i football team has a winning season, it can expect to receive an invitation to play in the Hawai'i Bowl.

When the bowl was created in 2002, organizers crafted the so-called "Santa Clause," in which for the first two years the Warriors would be invited as long as they met the NCAA bowl-eligible requirement of a winning season. The Warriors played in the first two Hawai'i Bowls.

But Jim Donovan, the game's executive director, yesterday said the clause will be extended and there always will be a place in the Hawai'i Bowl for a bowl-eligible UH team.

"It will remain that way for the foreseeable future," Donovan said. The Hawai'i Bowl is contracted for at least another two years.

Donovan said the clause initially was limited to the first two years because organizers were not sure if the NCAA would approve of a long-term arrangement favoring UH.

But during this year's meeting of the Football Bowl Association, NCAA officials gave their blessing to the clause, noting that without the Hawai'i Bowl, UH's chances of landing in a postseason bowl are slim. The Hawai'i Bowl was created after the Warriors' 9-3 record in 2001 did not lead to a postseason bowl.

The Warriors are scheduled to play 12 games in each of the next two seasons. When the Warriors win their seventh game, ensuring a winning season, "I'll be on the field inviting them to play in our game," Donovan said.

Donovan said the Hawai'i Bowl would not stand in the way if the Warriors wanted to play in another bowl.

"It would be up to June (Jones, UH's football coach) and Herman (Frazier, the athletic director) to accept our invitation," Donovan said.

The first two Hawai'i Bowls were played on Christmas Day. But next year, Christmas falls on Saturday. The National Football League usually schedules football games on the last two Saturdays of December.

ESPN Regional Television (ERT), which co-owns the Hawai'i Bowl, does not want to compete with the NFL. Donovan said there is a possibility of moving the 2004 Hawai'i Bowl from Christmas Day.

While the Hawai'i Bowl earns strong television ratings nationally, attendance is affected by playing on a holiday. Thursday's game drew an announced crowd of 25,551 — the smallest at Aloha Stadium for a UH game in Jones' five seasons in Manoa. The game was shown live locally on ESPN.

Donovan said it could take up to two months before ERT determines when to schedule next year's game.

ERT is a wholly owned subsidiary of ESPN. The Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA also are part-owners. Sheraton Hotels is the title sponsor.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8051.