Friday, September 4, 2015         


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Lacking a BCS bid, WAC's best bowl game is right here

By Ferd Lewis


Imagine you are the 25th-ranked University of Hawaii football team about ready to put the finishing touches on a 10-3 regular season this week.

Also picture yourself shopping for thermal underwear because your bowl reward could very easily be the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, where the average daily high temperature in December is 37 degrees.

Or, a worse scenario. And, yes, there is worse. That would be no bowl at all.

If there is an anything-can-happen type of season to underline what the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl means to the Warriors, this could be it.

If you think the Warriors should be tired of the hometown game after what will be their sixth visit in nine years, guess again. Without the backyard bowl, the Warriors could find themselves back on the blue turf with reminders of their 42-7 loss to Boise State -- or even out of the bowl picture altogether.

We bring this up because, without the Hawaii Bowl, the WAC would have four and possibly five bowl-eligible teams -- three of them nationally ranked -- and just three guaranteed bowl openings.

And since the Warriors would have to travel, at minimum, 2,500 miles and take a limited amount of fans, even a 10-win record wouldn't guarantee a choice of postseason opportunities. There is what fate would befall them.

You'd like to think the nation's top-ranked passing offense could find a suitable place to enjoy its postseason. That WAC commissioner Karl Benson, who has worked some remarkable bowl deals in the past, could pull another rabbit out of his hat.

But that fall-through-the-cracks situation of 2001, which found UH at home, watching the bowl parade on TV despite a 9-3 season, reminds us what can happen when you are at geography's mercy. It was what led UH to team up with the Western Athletic Conference and ESPN Regional Television to come up with the Hawaii Bowl in the first place.

This year, UH was guaranteed a place in the Hawaii Bowl back when it hit victory No. 7 on Oct. 30, saving it from a place in the current scrum of bowl-eligible WAC teams. It is said to be a fierce behind-the-scenes scrap for a berth in the most desirable WAC mainland holding, the San Francisco-based Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Boise State, Nevada and Fresno are all chasing what only one can have. The Broncos, because of their marquee value, will likely end up there. Meanwhile, Nevada, the team that beat them, could find itself in the Humanitarian Bowl unless a last-ditch bid for the Las Vegas Bowl comes through. Fresno State could either get packed off to Boise a month after its 51-0 loss on the smurf turf or returned to the New Mexico Bowl for a third consecutive season.

They call New Mexico the "Land of Enchantment" but, if you are the Bulldogs, really how enchanted can you be in Albuquerque for the third year in a row?

Ideally, of course, bowl positions would be merit-based. But this is college football and anything resembling justice is purely coincidental.

Instead, it all comes down to conference ties, and the ability to "travel" fans, i.e. pack the hotels, restaurants and tourist traps of a bowl's host city. For example, Washington, which needs to beat Washington State just to become bowl eligible, could end up in the Holiday Bowl or Alamo Bowl with just a 6-6 record.

"It is a good example of what the Hawaii Bowl means to the University of Hawaii," Benson said.


Reach Ferd Lewis at

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