Jones defends pre-game haka
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
HOUSTON — Head coach June Jones yesterday argued that it was unfair for his Hawai'i football team to be penalized for performing a pre-game haka Saturday night.
What's more, Jones accused the Western Athletic Conference of "micro-management" by creating a philosophy that "targets" the way the Warriors prepare for games.
Prior to the opening kickoff against Louisiana Tech, the Warriors were assessed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Bulldogs won the coin toss, opting to receive, and the Warriors were forced to kick off from their 15.
"That was not the correct thing," Jones said.
The NCAA has rules against unsportsmanlike conduct, but none specifically mentions the haka, a Maori war chant the Warriors began doing last year before games. After receiving a complaint, the WAC circulated a notice of suggestion encouraging teams not to perform the haka during road games.
"The rule hasn't changed since last year, and we were allowed to do it," Jones said. "For someone to micro-manage outside the NCAA rules, that's not right."
The WAC will not offer a public response until it receives a report from the officiating crew.
Jones said he conferred with officials before Saturday's game. He said he was told the haka would be allowed as long as the Warriors were not on the playing field or facing the Louisiana Tech players.
"It was never an intimidation thing," said offensive line coach Dennis McKnight, who joins the players in the haka. "It's a cultural thing for our fans and our players."
The Warriors performed the haka in the area fronting their locker room, which was at the top of a grass hill in the South end zone overlooking the field. They faced the 200 UH fans sitting in a nearby section.
"I checked," Jones said of the guidelines. "We didn't do it on the field. We did it 75 yards away from the field. ... It's not (unsportsmanlike). It's a cultural, spiritual thing. It's unfortunate. There's no unsportsmanlike issue in the book covering this."
Safety Keao Monteilh said: "We got penalized for something we do before every game. There's no sense in that. We were looking over the field. We didn't make any gestures to (the Louisiana Tech players). We were pointing to our fans."
Jones said it appears the Warriors are being singled out. He said other college programs have pre-game rituals.
"Some teams hold up helmets in the huddle," Jones said. "Florida State does a march around their helmet. (Texas-El Paso coach) Mike Price comes down and sticks a pick in the end zone."
Quarterback Colt Brennan recalled how his high school, Mater Dei, performed pride drills — synchronized routines — before every game.
"That was something that was very traditional to my high school," Brennan said. "We would be very offended and feel it was unfair if we weren't allowed to do that. For us, they said we couldn't do the haka on the field, so we went off the field. I think we did everything right. We shouldn't have been penalized."
Instead, Jones said, the haka should be celebrated as a cultural act that "is a positive thing for the conference. The haka has international recognition. It brings our conference identity. It's talked about all over the world."
Jones added: "There's no rule to control what we do off the field, like they can't control what we do in our locker room."
Monteilh said: "Maybe the next time we have to do it in our locker room. There might be a ref in there, too."
WE'LL DRINK TO THAT
After several players suffered from ailments related to the humidity Saturday night, the Warriors will be instructed to drink more fluids for this weekend's game in Las Vegas.
Left tackle Keith AhSoon writhed in pain after suffering from cramps. Running back David Farmer needed two IVs to ease the piercing pain in his legs and back. Brennan received an IV.
"It was a long game, and a tough game," Brennan said.
Jones said: "Just standing there, I was sweating."
The muggy conditions likely factored in some of center John Estes' high shotgun snaps.
"The ball was kind of wet," said Estes, who went through a pile of towels. "I was sweating so much, the towels were getting wet."
NOT WORTH WORRYING
The Warriors were unconcerned about their four-spot drop in the Associated Press poll, to No. 24 this week.
They remained at No. 22 in the coaches' poll.
"We have no control over the rankings," slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins said. "All we can do is play hard, and hopefully everything will work out."
ONE WALKING WOUNDED
The Warriors remain relatively healthy.
Running back Korey Reynolds has a slight shoulder dislocation, but the injury will not prevent him from playing. He's a starter on two of the special teams.
Michael Lafaele, not Aaron Kia, was pictured in yesterday's celebration picture after UH beat Louisiana Tech.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.