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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wishing C-USA the best

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

You might not be able to name a team in Conference USA's Eastern Division.

Heck, you may not remember the C-USA football champion (Houston). Or even care.

But for University of Hawai'i football fans, chances are this will be a season to wish C-USA whoever the heck is in it a monster year from top to bottom.

Not out of any great admiration or affection for a conference partly composed of Western Athletic Conference refugees, you understand, but out of enlightened self-interest. If the Warriors have the kind of year that things would seem to portend, C-USA could play an important part in how it all ends.

Are we getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here in mid-May? Of course. Plenty.

But, then, what are summers for but kicking around what-if football scenarios?

With quarterback Colt Brennan and much of the cast returning from an 11-3 season and No. 24 national ranking, there is a lot to project and wonder about. With a weak schedule, as things stand at the moment, there would seem to be few stumbling blocks in the way of an opportunity for a special season.

But, say, UH goes 11-1 or 12-0 remember UH has so far announced only 11 games, not yet confirming Northern Colorado for the Sept. 1 season opener. The hope would be that they can follow in Boise State's cleats and crack the prestigious and lucrative Bowl Championship Series.

A tall order to be sure even with a decent schedule. With the schedule it is looking more and more like UH will end up with Northern Colorado, Charleston Southern, etc. the BCS is a decided long shot. More likely, even with a record along the lines of 11-1 or 12-0, the Warriors will stay home and play in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Last year or in the future that could mean a Pac-10 opponent. But this year, the way the contract reads, that would be a representative from C-USA. Most likely not the champion, either, since the first choice of the C-USA pool belongs to the Liberty Bowl, which pays upwards of $1.3 million for the rights.

This is where you would hope the prime movers in the Hawai'i Bowl, UH, the Western Athletic Conference, C-USA and ESPN Regional Television, which owns and operates the bowl, might get together in the off-season and work up some contingencies. This is where you'd like them to put their heads together with some flexibility of purpose that would allow the Hawai'i Bowl some latitude if UH makes a run up the rankings.

For, as it stands now, the Hawai'i Bowl would get no higher than the third pick of the bowl-eligible options in the 12-team C-USA and, possibly as low as fifth. The game has never had higher than a co-second-place finisher.

Should UH make a run for the ages this season, few things would be sadder than a Warrior team going 12-0 or 11-1 and, for their grand finale, being paired with a 7-5 team in the postseason.

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