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Hawaii and BYU build flexibility into renewal

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 10:27 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

The University of Hawaii and Brigham Young University signed an agreement last week intended to keep them playing each other in football almost annually through 2020.

The three-page document is sprinkled with contingencies and the kinds of terms — “tentative” and “preferred” — you don’t usually find in such contracts and, at one point, says they will meet “in either 2014 or ’16.”

Had it been drawn up by some other schools you can think of, the wonder would be how badly they really wanted to play.

But in this case the fluidity is a sign of addressing the times and testament to how much the two longtime adversaries would like to continue the association.

It will be nine years since they last teed it up when UH and BYU step onto the turf at Aloha Stadium on Dec. 3 in the regular-season finale, far too long of a divide for two schools that were the best of enemies in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Back then they regularly played to sellouts and it was, in Honolulu at least, the big game on the schedule every year. In Provo, where then-BYU coach LaVell Edwards once pledged to jump off Mt. Timpanogos if the Cougars got roughed up at home after back-to-back blowouts here, it did not lack for a loud, passionate following, either.

But when BYU exited the Western Athletic Conference after 1998, nonconference games in 2001 and ’02 were the parting shots as the schools went their own ways. They always talked about getting back together, but something usually got in the way.

For a time last summer it looked like they might finally be reunited in a new-look WAC as BYU and the conference it once helped create talked about getting hitched again. But the seismic tremors that shook the college landscape took care of that, too.

Fortunately, the two signatories to the new deal, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, and his UH counterpart, Jim Donovan, had a sense of history, having lived it as players on opposite sides in 1981 and ’82. And, they had some compelling reasons to perpetuate it.

BYU, which has chosen the path of independence after bolting the Mountain West, needs games since it no longer has a conference to help fill its dance card.

UH, which for a time pondered the possibilities of independence as the WAC crumbled, needed games and also was in the market for marquee opponents just in case it ended up in a league with, say, Texas State.

“These games are something we really wanted, and so did they,” said UH associate athletic director Carl Clapp, who has been the point man.

The problem when the Mountain West invited UH was that nobody was sure whether the MWC would be playing an eight- or nine-game schedule beginning in 2014. That won’t be decided until next month — at the earliest— when the Board of Directors is scheduled to meet.

If it is a nine-game schedule some years, such as ’14, UH would already be fully booked. In addition there are some years, even with openings, UH could end up with seven road games and just six home games. Or, by MWC mandate, be required to keep certain months exclusively for MWC scheduling.

So UH and BYU, which used to bang helmets pretty good (you could ask Ty Detmer), this time put them together to provide the kind of flexibility that could go a long way to renewing the series.

“Nothing was easy,” Clapp said. “But it will be worth it.”

Reach Ferd Lewis at

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