POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 17, 2011
For nearly 20 years in the "old" Western Athletic Conference, the blue of Brigham Young University made University of Hawaii fans see red.
But in the new Mountain West Conference-to-be of 2012, sans BYU, who will be the teams Warriors fans will most love to hate — or are most passionate about playing?
If you're having trouble with that one, you are not alone. Faced with that question last week, UH ... punted.
Welcome to life after the WAC, a new world and, apparently, almost fresh slate for the Warriors.
Since each school will play only eight conference games in the 10-member MWC, leaving one team out, schedules for '12 and '13 announced last week "incorporated two ‘protected' rivalry games submitted by each institution," according to MWC deputy commissioner Bret A. Gilliland. The thing was that UH, apparently alone among 10 MWC members, chose not to "protect" appearances by anybody.
Not Nevada and Chris Ault. Not Fresno State and Pat Hill. Not even enduring bully Boise State or historic thorn San Diego State.
There are any number of ways the Warriors could have approached this one. One, purely from the box office point of view for a school struggling to balance its books, would have been to "protect" Boise State and Fresno State, two of its best draws of recent years. Both being proven quantities with the fans.
Nevada, since at least the 2007 march to the Sugar Bowl, when Ault tried to "freeze" kicker Dan Kelly before the game-winning 45-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining in an eventual 28-26 triumph, has become a rivalry prospect. A situation enhanced by the Warriors' 27-21 upset in 2010.
The smart geographic choice would have been to "protect" Fresno State and San Diego State since they will be the closest conference opponents, meaning lower travel costs for the Warriors and less of a subsidy burden when the Bulldogs and Aztecs come this way.
Under its agreement with the MWC, UH will pay each visiting conference team from the Pacific Time Zone $150,000 for travel and ante up $175,000 for foes coming from the Mountain Time Zone.
Then, there is the Darwin approach. Pick the two opponents with the weakest records over the past few years or least encouraging prospects, which could have been New Mexico and, take your pick, Nevada-Las Vegas, Colorado State or Wyoming.
No small consideration in a conference in which current guidelines call for tied teams to be declared co-champions.
Instead, athletic director Jim Donovan said UH had no qualms about playing anybody and let the MWC make the call. (It dropped Wyoming from UH's schedule for '12 and '13).
The only request UH made, Donovan said, was consideration of having its road games at UNLV scheduled in September, when the traveling legions of Warrior faithful would not have to compete against other major events for hotel rooms and flights.
You can bet that's one "protect" dear to fans' hearts that the MWC hasn't heard before.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org