Wednesday, November 25, 2015         


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UH set up to face some fire during WAC farewell tour

By Ferd Lewis


Legend has it that at their final Western Athletic Conference football media day before bolting for the then-Pac-8, Arizona and Arizona State found themselves publicly chided as "(bleeping) turncoats."

The University of Hawaii did not suffer a similar fate at the just-completed football preview in Las Vegas this week, a session that was, by most reports, cool but civil.

Maybe the intervening 34 years and the many subsequent comings and goings -- goings mostly -- have better prepared people for membership changes.

At least you'd like to think so as UH, whose way for WAC membership was opened by the departure of the Arizona schools, gets ready to make its own exit for the Mountain West Conference in 2012.

To be sure, there are underlying tensions that suggest breaking up will not be easy to do, and all involved are going to have to work at it.

Witness last fall, when the Warriors, and indeed the rest of the WAC, took rising delight in UH knocking off MWC-bound Nevada and Fresno State in successive weeks. Recall when exuberant fans trashed the defectors with righteous indignation in some creative forms.

Now, with the Warriors following the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs out the door July 1, 2012, much of that fire will be aimed UH's way. Heightened, if that is possible, by UH being labeled the preseason pick to win the WAC football championship in 2011.

And you can bet coaches of the remaining schools took some satisfaction in helping set it up that way with their ballots. Now, when UH rolls into Ruston, La.; San Jose, Calif.; or Moscow, Idaho, opposing coaches have a ready-made pregame speech and fans have been handed an instant rallying cry.

If Louisiana Tech, Utah State or another of the remnants manages to knock off UH, there will be much to crow about. Few things would satisfy the remaining WAC teams more than the three defectors departing sans the championship trophy. And little would raise their stock more.

By all accounts things were business-like in Las Vegas, where for the first time since the membership changes were announced, the paths of the departing and incoming members crossed in lobbies and sessions. The WAC got to place its spin on the future even as it was involved in promoting the present. And no blows were reported thrown.

We got a glimpse of some of the feelings and fears inherent in the shift earlier this spring when things got snippy over football scheduling problems between Fresno State and the conference office.

At UH, there were some concerns that the Warriors could pay a price for their exit when the 2011 football schedule came out. Unfounded as it turned out.

We're told coaches and athletic department staff at UH have been reminded by director Jim Donovan that the WAC was the first collegiate conference home of the school and to respect the relationship and history.

As Manoa Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw wrote in the March 11 letter announcing UH's intent to leave the WAC, "Our long-term relationship with the WAC has been a very positive experience in many ways and we have great respect for our WAC colleagues. Mahalo for everyone's collegial interactions."

As the longest-serving current member, the best thing UH could do is finish its 33rd and last year with class and, of course, a championship.

Reach Ferd Lewis at

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