Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 4, 2004

UH, Owls eager to kick off

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

They are from opposite ends of the country and, not surprisingly, Florida Atlantic and host Hawai'i have polar approaches to tonight's football season opener at Aloha Stadium.


What: NCAA football.

Who: Hawai'i (0-0) vs. Florida Atlantic (0-0).

When/Where: 6:05 p.m. today at Aloha Stadium.

Tickets: $20 (sidelines), $18 (South end zone), $10 (North end zone), $9 (North end zone/senior citizens, ages 4-18), free (UH students, but tickets only available at Stan Sheriff Center).

Parking: $5.

Stadium Gates: Open at 3 p.m.

Radio: KKEA (1420 AM).

Television: Live on pay-per-view; delayed at 10 p.m. on K5 (Channel 5).

The Owls have had to set aside the survivor's guilt of leaving behind a campus that might be in the path of Hurricane Frances. Before departing Thursday morning from Boca Raton, FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger moved his family and worked to fasten storm shutters onto his home and office.

The Warriors' off-the-field distraction came from critical comments by KHON-2 news anchor Joe Moore, who launched parting shots at the team's new musical tracks and coach June Jones' decision to abandon the "Rainbow" nickname five years ago.

While the Warriors are assured a berth in the Hawai'i Bowl if they win the majority of their regular-season games, the Owls are in limbo. As probationary members of Division I-A and the Sun Belt Conference, the Owls are ineligible to compete for the league championship or a berth in the Division I-AA playoffs.

"It does stink that we can't compete for any postseason play," FAU quarterback Jared Allen said.

Schnellenberger said: "We look forward to winning the mythical championship of the Sun Belt. Maybe ADT (the Bowl Championship Series trophy sponsor) will create a trophy with a plastic football."

The Owls act as if they have nothing to lose; the Warriors act as if they have nothing to gain.

The Warriors kept to their media policy of not allowing player interviews after Wednesday. A Palm Beach reporter was asked not to attend Thursday's practice. Yesterday's practice was closed to all reporters.

In contrast, the Owls practiced from midnight until 3 a.m. Thursday to get used to the six-hour time difference. Their three-hour practice at Aloha Stadium was open to the media, stadium workers and fans. The Owls did not practice yesterday, although they left open the possibility of a walk-through workout at Kapi'olani Park.

Despite the contrasting styles, the ultimate goal is the same. "They're going to be ready to play and we're going to be ready to play," Jones said. "They're going to be very motivated and we're going to be very motivated. First games are always that way."

For the Warriors, this is the chance to jump-start a season in which they hope to win their first Western Athletic Conference outright title.

"We're excited and nervous," said UH quarterback Tim Chang, who is on track to set the NCAA record for most passing yards in a career. "There are a bunch of emotions going through me and my teammates now. We want to make a good showing and represent Hawai'i really well."

For the Owls, Allen said, "Hawai'i is the biggest team we've played thus far. This is like our bowl game."

In 1999, Schnellenberger, then 64, was offered a fantasy football owner's dream: the opportunity to build the FAU program from scratch. Schnellenberger, who led Miami to the 1984 national championship, had not coached since he was forced to resign at Oklahoma after the 1995 season.

Allen was a member of FAU's first recruiting class, now known as "The Originals." Each Saturday in 2000, the Owls played an intrasquad scrimmage.

"After a while, playing your teammates every Saturday got pretty old," Allen said. "But it was a learning process. It was a year we needed to mature. It was a year all of "The Originals" talk about until this day."

The Owls fielded their first team in 2001 and, last year, went 11-3 and advanced to the semifinals of the I-AA playoffs. Last December, FAU accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt, a I-A conference. The Owls, who play in a 19,000-seat soccer stadium, have secured the money to build a 40,000-seat domed stadium, which will open in 2007. Schnellenberger recently agreed to a two-year contract extension that runs through 2009.

"We've brought this program from creation to infancy to adolescence to young manhood in three years," Schnellenberger said.

Along the way, Schnellenberger, who underwent knee surgery this summer, maintains 12- to 18-hour workdays. "You have to do what it takes to win," he said. "My reward and my enthusiasm come from the accomplishments of this team. When you have success, you don't get tired very often."

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