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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 14, 2010

UH back in game as place to play

By Ferd Lewis

The $900,000 that Boise State will rake in for playing its just-announced 2011 football season opener at Mississippi will come in handy for the University of Hawai'i's foremost Western Athletic Conference rival.

But you'll hardly find UH bemoaning the Broncos' windfall.

In fact, UH should look at it as good advertising to help attract future opponents and hope word of the Boise State's well-executed bonanza continues to send business the Warriors' way.

At a time when prospective opponents and even some WAC members are loudly lamenting the costs of jetting here, Boise State's jackpot is Exhibit "A" in how to make it work for all concerned.

The NCAA limits teams to a maximum of 12 regular season football games unless they play one here in which case the so-called Hawai'i Exemption permits a 13th game. Which is how Boise, which already had a 12-game schedule in place for 2011, managed to work in the Ole Miss payday.

This year, five of UH's six major college home opponents will take advantage of the exemption to add a 13th game. For some, such as season-opening foe Southern California, coming here will fill the bonus puka.

For others, such as Nevada-Las Vegas, the 13th game will be a money opportunity. UNLV will play at West Virginia for a reported $740,000 payout and $10,000 in travel fees.

It marks a significant turnaround from 2006-07 when only one third of visiting opponents claimed the extra game.

The rule that opened the way was the 1950s brainchild of then-UH coach "Hank" Vasconcellos. Stung by an 11th-hour cancellation by San Jose State in 1954 for financial reasons after tickets had already been printed, Vasconcellos vowed never to let it happen again.

To make sure it didn't, he sold the 1955 NCAA Convention in New York on the exemption and its passage, along with careful stewardship by subsequent directors, helped pave the way for UH's climb to an all-collegiate schedule and, eventually, Division I status.

But what wasn't imagined was that the NCAA would go from the 10-game maximum of Vasconcellos' era to the now-permissable 12, watering down the attractiveness of the exemption.

In these austere economic times, however, UH has something to sell again. Far from begrudging Boise's wherewithal to purchase more blue turf, UH athletic director Jim Donovan said, "they've helped us show the value in playing a game here."