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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 9, 2008

No fooling! John L. wants in

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

John L. Smith

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April Fool's Day arrived early this year.

Yesterday, apparently, for that was when John L. Smith declared his candidacy for the vacant University of Hawai'i head football coaching position.

We'll pause here for a hearty laugh from Ni'ihau to South Point.

"With 18 years of collegiate head coaching experience and over 130 wins, I would hope that would qualify me as a candidate to be the next head coach at the University of Hawai'i," The Associated Press quoted Smith as saying from his Louisville, Ky., home.

The AP didn't say whether he was able to utter all that with a straight face. But chances are he wasn't.

"Have you been there (to Hawai'i)? It's a miserable trip," Smith said in 2004, when, as the Michigan State head coach, he brought the Spartans here. "It's forever. Eleven hours. That's just to get you there. Then, you've got to acclimate and play a game. It's such a lovely trip. It's like a reoccurring bad dream."

And that was before the Spartans got taken down, 41-38, by the Warriors in another of the late-season collapses that eventually resulted in his removal from East Lansing in 2006. Afterward, he bad-mouthed UH and all things Hawai'i not only during the 4,400 miles home but into the Big Ten football meetings.

Smith, as you will recall, is in large part responsible for UH's subsequent difficulties in booking Big Ten opponents here. So shrill were his bleatings that Michigan State bought its way out of the scheduled 2007 game at Aloha Stadium even after he had been fired. Even Purdue tried to get out of its 2006 game before begrudgingly following through with the contest.

If UH and Hawai'i tourism officials have a picture on their dart boards, chances are it is Smith's.

So, when he said, "I think I could bring high energy and an unsurpassed work ethic to help keep Hawai'i at the top of the WAC," he had to be speaking with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Sort of like when, in 2005, he maintained he was looking forward to that 2007 trip saying, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Perhaps not since Judith Holland applied for the UH athletic director's job in 1993 has so much chutzpa been displayed in connection with a UH opening. Holland was the senior women's athletic director at UCLA and chair of the NCAA women's basketball selection committee in the early 1990s when the Rainbow Wahine were passed over for a bid despite a 28-4 record.

Amazingly enough, Holland's candidacy actually made it pretty far in the process. When Rainbow Wahine basketball coach Vince Goo found out, he threatened to jump off a building if she got the job.

Goo was kidding we think.

Unfortunately, Smith may not be.

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

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