Hugh Durham was roaring down I-85 on his way from Greenville, S.C., to Atlanta the other day, chuckling.
"So, they’re (Florida State) gonna play Hawaii, again," the 72-year old former Seminoles basketball coach mused.
Yes, apparently the shelf life on a once-terse, teeth-clenched vow of "never" again in college basketball will be 39 years almost to the day — the time between one of the most infamous games in UH basketball history and the Dec. 22 rematch in the Diamond Head Classic.
ESPN Regional TV will pair the host Rainbow Warriors against the Seminoles in the opening round. North Carolina-based ERT, however, didn’t know just how big a piece of UH lore it had stumbled onto when it made the announcement Thursday.
The last time the two teams met, Dec. 22, 1971, an 81-76 UH victory over the nationally ranked Seminoles, was to have been the last meeting between the schools.
Both parties had said as much at the time and afterward, though they could have met in 1989.
In the first 1971 contest, on Dec. 18, UH took a 30-10 forfeit victory over Florida State, a game that simmers in controversy to this day, long after the passing of some key figures.
A UH team that had just become known as the "Fabulous Five" was off to a 4-0 start in its second season together and playing the 13th-ranked Seminoles in front of a sold-out Honolulu International Center (as the Blaisdell was then known) and a statewide TV audience.
The Seminoles, UH players have said, laughed openly at the ‘Bows’ aloha print uniforms, inspiring an all-out start. "They had a pretty good team and we were down 26-10 before we knew it," Durham recalls.
"One of our players, Otto Petty, was called for a reaching foul and made a comment to an official about, ‘Why don’t you make the same calls at both ends?’ Then, he showed him where his arm had been clawed," Durham said. "The official gave him a technical."
In those days, eight years before UH joined the WAC, the school was an independent and hired game officials locally, an occasional bone of contention with visiting teams.
So, Durham said, "I go out there to do what coaches try to do and get a technical. I’m telling the official, ‘These are two good teams, let ’em play, we came a long way, blah, blah, blah …’ and he tells me, ‘Go sit down coach or I’m going to call a technical.’ Well, that was what I went out there for, to get a technical, so I told him, ‘Go ahead, call the son-of-a-bleep’ and he tells me, ‘Coach, you’re out of the game.’"
"I think he thought I swore at him," said Durham, who now laughs at the memories.
When Durham refused to leave the court after the free throws had been shot, referee David Mahukona called the game and it went into the books as a forfeit.
When FSU beat the Hawaii Marines a night later, Durham remembers, "the headline in the paper was, ‘Florida State finishes game.’ "
Then, on Dec. 22, UH and FSU had their second meeting (opponents generally played three games per trip). Durham’s friend Oral Roberts sat on the Seminoles’ bench. Not that it helped much in a victory that earned the ‘Bows their first national ranking.
UH went 24-3 that year, but got blown out 91-64 by Weber State in its first NCAA Tournament appearance. Florida State (24-6) lost 81-76 to Bill Walton-led UCLA in the championship game.
"That season we played UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Jacksonville … and lost only six games," Durham recalls. "Two of them to Hawaii."
Going on 40 years, it is a far-from-forgotten chapter in history for both.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.