Cal Lee rejuvenated as linebackers coach
|||The Advertiser's Sugar Bowl Special|
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ferd Lewis
NEW ORLEANS — Along with his ever-present baseball cap, University of Hawai'i linebackers coach Cal Lee rarely leaves a practice without a smile this season.
A 12-0 record and tomorrow's appearance in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia have a lot to do with it, of course, but so does Lee apparently being able to be his own man for the first time in three seasons.
"The old Coach Cal has been back this season," said All-Western Athletic Conference linebacker Solomon Elimimian. "He has had more freedom this year and it shows. He's always had a passion for the game, for coaching football but this year it really shows. He (Lee) is a big reason we've flourished as linebackers and as a defense."
The first year under defensive coordinator Greg McMackin has been a significant change from the two previous seasons under Jerry Glanville, who practiced a firm-grip, hands-on style. Lee was ever the good soldier but often seemed a frustrated one, too. People around the program say Lee was more constrained in his role from the first two years.
Lee joined the Warriors in 2003 as Hawai'i's all-time leader in high school championships with a 241-32-5 record, 14 Prep Bowl titles, 18 Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships and the inaugural Hawai'i High School Athletic Association crown at Saint Louis School.
But with the coming of Glanville in 2005, Lee saw some of his role diminished by the change in defensive coordinators. "McMackin does a good job of communicating to his coaches and Cal knows what he wants," said Ron Lee, Cal's older brother, who serves as receivers coach. "I don't think Jerry did that. They didn't communicate that well, so he (Cal) was a little uncomfortable at times because he didn't know what the coordinator wanted."
Cal said, "when you have a change in people, there can also be a change of personalities."
There was speculation after Glanville's first season that Lee might try to return to the high school ranks, where he had been the most decorated coach in state history. But Lee laughs and says, "no, you don't look back."
When Glanville took the head coaching job at Portland State and was replaced by McMackin, "Cal was more comfortable with Mac," Ron Lee said.
"I think he (Cal) got more freedom to coach," All-WAC linebacker Adam Leonard said. "He has so much football knowledge and he really enjoys teaching us. I think it eased the stress and you could tell it was more enjoyable for him."
This season, Leonard said, "he's more vocal and able to teach us a lot more on the technique side. That's good because he really knows the game and has a passion for it."
Walking off the practice field yesterday, Lee looked up and said, "How can you not be happy this year? You get up in the morning and it is a fresh new day and the sun is out. When you're working with young people, have good people around you and are winning, everything is wonderful."
WARRIORS MAKE GRADE FOR POSTSEASON ELIGIBILITY
UH reported no academic casualties for the bowl, a spokesman for the Manoa Chancellor's office said.
NCAA rules require players to complete a minimum of six semester hours with a "C" average or better in the fall grading period to be eligible for postseason participation.
Fifty-five percent of the Warriors achieved a 2.8 grade point average or better and 42 per cent accomplished a 3.0 or better, according to Gregg Takayama.
Several players began the semester on academic probation but those, too, all met the qualifying marks, Takayama said.
"Part of (the reason for the success) is they changed some of the policies," Takayama said. "(Now) they send all the students to Sinclair Library instead of the (athletic department), where there are more resources, more computers and tutors to help them out."
MEDIA INVASION OF 441 FOR THE SUGAR BOWL
The Sugar Bowl had granted 441 media credentials as of yesterday.
Along with Fox, which will televise the game, ESPN radio, www.ESPN.com, The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times are among those covering the game.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.
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