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Tonight’s game not a typical season opener for Warriors

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Want to know, in a nutshell, where all this summer’s comings and goings — mostly goings — of the Western Athletic Conference leave the University of Hawaii in the near term?

Well, take a look around Aloha Stadium tonight, where 14th-ranked Southern California plays the Warriors in the season opener. Take a good, l-o-n-g look.

Because there is the very real possibility the Trojans could be the last nationally ranked team the Warriors play at home in front of a near-capacity crowd until …

Well, maybe, just maybe, until USC returns on Aug. 31, 2013.

Boise State is off to the Mountain West after this season’s game in Idaho and isn’t coming back to Halawa anytime soon. Fresno State and Nevada will follow the Broncos out the door, sooner rather than later to hear them tell it.

And, surely you don’t expect any of the remnants — Idaho, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State or Louisiana Tech — to be rubbing shoulder pads with the high and mighty or pulling in 45,000-plus fans in the immediate future.

Or, for that matter, most of the other nonconference opponents — Charleston Southern, UNLV (twice), Colorado, UC Davis, Lamar and Western Kentucky — on the upcoming schedules.

So, unless Brigham Young, unranked to start 2010, or Oregon State, 24th at the moment, come in here with a Top 25 resume in 2011, it is pretty much wait for the Trojans in ’13.

That is a sobering thought and illustrative of their precarious position as the Warriors await the next round of conference musical chairs and debate the dubious path of following BYU into independence.

All the more reason why tonight’s game carries import beyond being an opener. It is, for this season at least, the Warriors’ only so-far scheduled appearance on the main ESPN platform.

Thanks to the controversy and questions surrounding probation-slapped USC and its new head coach, Lane Kiffin, there is more of a compelling storyline on this one than usual and, you’d suspect, a larger audience looming.

That’s quite a stage for the Warriors to do with as they might. An opportunity not to be missed if you are trying to send a message to another conference or make one about surviving amid the rubble of the current one.

Here, for example, is a chance to show potential recruits that while things crumble around UH, the Warriors, at least, will — to borrow a phrase — fight on. And it is an opportunity to demonstrate to prospective additions to the WAC that the conference’s senior member is somebody to rally around.

It is worth noting that the first time the Trojans came to Aloha Stadium, the 1978 regular-season finale, UH was playing its last game as an independent.

In that game the national championship-bound Trojans of Charles White, Ronnie Lott and Anthony Munoz, etc., provided UH with an indication of where the program stood at an important juncture.

The way UH hung in, trailing 9-5 into the third quarter of an eventual 21-5 loss, suggested the then-Rainbows were ready for their WAC debut and up for the challenges of their first conference membership.

The Warriors only hope they can take away something as positive from tonight’s experience wherever they might be headed.

Reach Ferd Lewis at


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