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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 2, 2006

UH-Alabama IV a real long shot

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

 •  Warriors get taste of the big time

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. It took 93 years for the University of Hawai'i and Alabama to get together on the football field.

After today's meeting, don't hold your breath waiting for another clash anytime soon.

While the 1:07 p.m. (Hawai'i time) game will be the third meeting in five years between them, it figures to be quite a while before UH gets another chance at the Crimson Tide. Let's put it this way: Leonard Peters Jr. might figure in that one. Kanoa Leahey might be as old as his father, Jim (63), before it comes about. Bryant-Denny Stadium may seat 120,000 by then.

So it behooves the Warriors to make the most of the possibilities that await them at sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium today.

Indeed, had it not been for the left-right combination of NCAA probation, Alabama and UH might have remained separated by 4,370 miles instead of on opposite sidelines. If not for Alabama running up against the NCAA, UH would be seeing Bryant-Denny from a TV set.

The closest the Crimson Tide had come to UH was a 1985 appearance against Southern California in the Aloha Bowl and Alabama seemed very content to leave it that way.

But when the NCAA slapped Alabama with probation in 2002 for excessive zeal by some of its well-heeled boosters, who attempted to buy players the way they got their suits off the rack and with cash things changed.

To soften the blow of being stripped of a postseason appearance in 2002, Alabama jumped at the opportunity, dangled by Hugh Yoshida and June Jones, to end its season in paradise with its own version of a "probation bowl."

Tide fans who followed the team, numbering 8,000 or more, to Aloha Stadium said it sure beat the heck out of the last real bowl they had been to, the 2001 Independence Bowl in Shreveport.

Still, Alabama was willing to leave it at that until the NCAA turned down the Tide's appeal of 2003 sanctions as well. So, Alabama signed up for a return engagement and left with a 37-29 loss.

You have to wonder if today's game ever would have found its way on to the schedule had the Tide left a winner without a score to settle.

But the loss suddenly made UH a more appealing draw and, coincidentally UA athletic director Mal Moore said, the rematch ended up coinciding with the grand re-opening of the 92,138-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Moore said there are no plans to talk a new deal with his opposite number, UH's Herman Frazier, today. They may eventually get around to it one day, Moore said, but it is anybody's guess when.

Besides, Florida State, Penn State and others have all but filled out the Crimson Tide's upcoming non-conference dance cards years ahead and Alabama can fill in other designated-opponent pukas more cheaply with needy neighbors such as its Sept. 16 opponent, Louisiana-Monroe.

So, the Warriors should take another good, long look around today when they set foot in this temple of college football. And, they should play like there is no coming back.

Because there just might not be.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.