After he was let go as head football coach in a messy 1995 parting, Bob Wagner swore off helping the University of Hawaii again.
But when the "Na Koa Bowl" fundraiser for UH football debuts from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on KFVE and OC 16 tonight, Wagner will be front and center as one of the special guests on the Warriors’ behalf.
"You can see these are tough times and they are needy, so when they called, and asked, I said, ‘If I can help …’ " Wagner said. "Beside, life is short and time heals things."
It is a sign of the urgency of the situation that Na Koa, the football booster club, has gotten former head coaches and players — some of whom go back 60 years — to rally around the telethon-like venture.
Alvin Katahara of Na Koa said proceeds will go to helping "make a dent" in the $225,000 annual summer school scholarship costs and other needs.
For 14 previous years, the Pigskin Pigout on Merchant Street served as the major summer fundraiser, producing, on average, approximately $100,000 a year. But Don and Marion Murphy of host Murphy’s Bar and Grill are taking a respite this year, leaving Na Koa to seek alternative sources.
Katahara said tonight’s Na Koa "bowl" will be followed by an October block party "in the Ward entertainment area" and, possibly, another venture. "Hopefully, with two or three of these events, we can make it," Katahara said.
Jimmy Asato (1962-64) and Dick Tomey (1977-86), head coach of UH’s first Western Athletic Conference teams, will join Wagner (1987-95), who took the Warriors to their first NCAA bowls and Top 25 postseason rankings.
"We — myself, Dick (Tomey) and a lot of others — have an investment in the program," Wagner said. "And Na Koa is something that’s pretty dear to my heart," said Wagner, who, with Ben Yee, founded the organization in 1987.
Randal Okimoto, Eddie Klaneski, Henry Kapono and Larry Shearer will be among the former Warriors taking part, Na Koa said.
Elroy Chong, who battled with Mike Biscotti for the starting quarterback job in the early 1970s, said the one-time rivals, will "come together to help out UH. Mike and I battled it out, but have become good friends and we want to give back to UH," Chong said.
"It is a real grassroots-type effort with the young guys and old guys coming together to help out the school," Chong said.