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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lackluster football finales in future

By Ferd Lewis

The University of Hawai'i football team will play Western Kentucky to end the season.

Unfortunately, for the Warriors' recent bowl hopes, it wasn't the 2009 campaign.

For bowl purposes the um, hmmm ... oh, yeah, Hilltoppers, who went 0-12 in their debut season as Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) members, would have been preferable to nationally ranked Wisconsin, which stomped on any dreams of bowl eligibility.

Instead the Hilltoppers will be here to close the 2012 season on Dec. 2.

It figures to be a precursor of future seasons when fewer so-called Bowl Championship Series opponents will occupy the once-marquee regular season-ending slot on Hawai'i's schedule.

Look at the upcoming schedules and only two of the next five will end with BCS conference foes: Oregon State in 2011 and Washington in 2013.

Otherwise, it is Nevada-Las Vegas (2010), Western Kentucky (2012) and UNLV again (2014).

In the case of 2012, athletic director Jim Donovan said he opted for a non-BCS opponent because UH already had Southern California and Brigham Young on the road and his philosophy is not to overload the non-conference portion.

But it is also becoming a fact of life that fewer BCS teams are willing to come here late in the season. Where UH once was able to book the likes of Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Michigan in succession, those are becoming fading memories.

The advent of the BCS and the money that rides on it have made prospective opponents wary of venturing here late in the season. Witness Wisconsin's $1 million offer to "buy" UH out of last month's home game and move it to Madison.

In addition, the Big Ten, which once ended its conference season at Thanksgiving, is adopting a policy of playing league games into December. It is also looking at the possibility of playing a conference championship game, one reason expansion is being studied. Several other BCS leagues already have championship games.

Moreover, with the NCAA now permitting teams to play a maximum of 12 games without traveling to Hawai'i, UH has lost a lot of late-season leverage.

So, enjoy the end-of-the-year marquee opponents while they last, 'cause there will be more Hilltoppers to come.