By Ferd Lewis
Your first clue that coach June Jones was not going to park Tim Chang on the bench this week and turn the starting quarterback job over to Jason Whieldon should have come in the summer.
That's when the University of Hawai'i unveiled its bold "Tim Chang for Heisman" campaign, CD and all. Whatever you think of the far-fetched effort, it is clear UH wasn't going to make that kind of a commitment to its poster passer just so it could sit him down the very week ESPN shows up.
After the Southern California date, these next three games, Alabama, Boise State and the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, and the national audience they promise, are probably the ones Jones has most looked forward to.
Anybody who thought Jones would consider benching Chang at this juncture for any transgression short of repainting his Harley in rainbow colors has overlooked the coach's big picture plans or underestimated his resolve to seeing them through.
The Heisman campaign isn't about actually winning the trophy as much as one more device to call attention to the niche UH is attempting to carve. When you're the coach of a school 2,500 miles off the beaten path of college football, it takes something special to get noticed and build a reputation around. For Jones, the means is a pass-happy offense that has taken aim at Ty Detmer's NCAA record for career passing yardage.
Rewrite that record and UH will be known as the school where passing marks are set and Jones as the coach who made it all happen.
Probably from the first week he set eyes on Chang in fall practice as a freshman, Jones has had his sights set on Detmer's 15,031 yards and all the fanfare that would accompany the rewriting. Had Chang not gotten hurt in 2001, we might unfortunately never have glimpsed Nick Rolovich again.
Now, with four years that an injury redshirt season stretched into five, Chang, who is at 12,191 yards and counting, is on pace to set the mark in 2004.
Though Chang hasn't had the season he should be having this year, he is still the best UH has on more nights than not, even if Whieldon's competitive grit sometimes makes you wonder if talent is everything.
Jones has long been a one-quarterback kind of coach, perhaps from the days of looking over his own shoulder as a player. For better or worse Jones' commitment to Chang is unshaken.
Against Louisiana Tech and San Jose State that devotion eventually paid off in victories. At Nevada-Las Vegas, Tulsa and Nevada, it didn't.
Despite some of the buzz from the stands, this week the wonder isn't that Chang is starting again. The real surprise would be if he wasn't.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.