POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 11, 2010
Somewhere, Karl Benson is smiling today and, maybe behind the door of the Western Athletic Conference commissioner's office, doing a little jig, too.
And he is undoubtedly not alone in WAC outposts far and wide (though, really, does this conference have any other kind?).
After months of internecine squabbling and anxiety about the future of this fractious conference, the huddled masses being left behind by the latest breakaway finally have something to shout loud and proud about.
When the University of Hawaii football team slapped a 49-27 loss on Fresno State on Saturday night in the San Joaquin Valley, it wasn't just about the Warriors, though they certainly earned their bows and the gratitude of their brethren. The victory, especially its severity, also struck a blow for the five other shell-shocked members in the same shaky boat.
Gosh knows they certainly needed one. For one night — and however long the glow lasts — the Warriors could revel in giving the renegade rabble their comeuppance. And celebrate they did with soaring chest bumps, high fives and slaps across the back.
You'd have thought Fresno State's $5 million check had been presented at a postgame ceremony, so giddy were some UH officials.
For all the arrogance that has permeated Fresno State and Nevada's insistence that not only will they be leaving the WAC but they want out on their terms and timetable, this was, in essence, the Warriors' reply.
For one night, Hawaii's looming decisions over whether to stay in the conference or go independent, not to mention questions about exactly who UT-San Antonio is and how best to get to San Marcos, Texas, home of prospective member Texas State, could be put aside to watch Bulldog Stadium's biggest crowd of the season sullenly empty out.
As painfully as it played out at Jim Sweeney Field for the Bulldogs, it had to go down like gravel in the cereal bowl elsewhere around the Mountain West. Or, maybe having seen UH win three games in a row in the once forbidding home of the Bulldogs, it merely raised the hopes of MWC dredge like New Mexico and Colorado State.
Meanwhile, whether the Warriors and Bulldogs ever meet in a WAC game again or not — and the Bulldogs can't be real excited about the prospect of facing Bryant Moniz in his backyard next year should it come to that — maybe the UH fans got the last word. It was their turn to tell an opposing team "you aren't in our league" and "don't let the door hit you on your way out."
Or, in WAC terms: "Play Up!"
You hope the Warriors remember how much they enjoyed the feeling. The wish is that what happened in Fresno doesn't stay there. Because the Warriors get the opportunity to do it all over again this week at Aloha Stadium when another deserter, Nevada, saunters into town.
Only this time the stakes will be higher and the competition markedly better. The nationally ranked and unbeaten Wolf Pack (6-0) are hoping to stay that way until its Nov. 26 showdown with Boise State. In that Hawaii might be the toughest remaining obstacle that Nevada has to negotiate on its way to that game now that the Bulldogs have been exposed.
Can the Warriors do it again with back-to-back bushwackings of the breakaways?
One thing is for sure, Benson and the rest of the WAC remnants, like a lot of people in Halawa come Saturday night, will be rooting for the Warriors.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.