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Friday, November 21, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Wacky WAC week: Wahine lose, Warriors co-champs

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



The Western Athletic Conference's world is spinning and, for once, it has nothing to do with expansion or defection.

I mean, let's have a show of hands for those who predicted back in September that the Warriors football team would win a WAC championship this fall -- and the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team wouldn't.

Yeah, sure.

Who knew that come the final week of November head football coach Greg McMackin would be, at 9-3, a candidate for WAC coach of the year and Hall of Fame volleyball mentor Dave Shoji might be mumbling, "What in the name of Tachikara just happened?"

But here the Warriors are, thanks to a 59-24 victory over New Mexico State yesterday -- and in no small part to Nevada's 34-31 overtime stunner of Boise State on Friday -- guaranteed a piece of their fourth WAC title in 32 years.

This by a UH team that was picked fifth (by coaches) and seventh (by the media) in preseason polls during the summer.

Nevada and Boise State will claim a piece of the crown (the WAC does not use a tiebreaker) if they win out next week against Louisiana Tech and Utah State, respectively, as they should. But, then again, nobody envisioned the Broncos and their one-for-the-ages place-kicker, Kyle Brotzman, not only suddenly fallible but crumbling.

To say nothing of the somnolent Rainbow Wahine, who were swept out of the WAC tournament and their accustomed NCAA tournament automatic bid by Utah State after winning 47 consecutive WAC matches and sweeping 62 consecutive sets.

One WAC official was heralding it as the biggest upset this year. Not in women's volleyball, mind you, but all of college sports. Had it been a football game, the match would have been an off-the-board listing at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, where it was played.

But while fans in Logan, Utah, and Reno, Nev., celebrate, there is little joy among the keepers of the athletic department books around the WAC. Not only is this a conference whose membership is in question, there likely will be no bumper Bowl Championship Series check to help soothe the anxiety.

Had Boise State vaulted over Texas Christian in the BCS standings, as it was expected to do by beating Nevada, the Broncos likely would have landed in the Rose Bowl and earned the WAC $8 million: $3 million up front for the Broncos and $5 million to have been divided among the other eight. That $625,000 could have sopped up a lot of red ink at UH and elsewhere.

At the very least, Boise State winning out would have meant a BCS at-large berth and a $6 million bump for the WAC ($3 million for the Broncos and $375,000 apiece for UH and everybody else.)

That would have helped underwrite a very merry Manoa Christmas in the form of the UH football team's championship rings, assistant coaches' bonuses and McMackin's contracted bonuses ($20,000 for winning the WAC, $20,000 for going to a bowl and $10,000 if named WAC coach of the year).

To the end, it appears, this remains a wacky WAC.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

 






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