It was several minutes before kickoff of the 1998 football game between Hawaii and Michigan and the Aloha Stadium crowd was stirred to a frenzy, pumping arms and screaming at the action on the video board.
"What’s that they are watching," Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler asked someone as he made his way to a booth in the press box.
"Women’s volleyball," was the answer.
"Volleyball?" Schembechler replied with incredulity.
Not just "volleyball" — it was the 1998 Western Athletic Conference tournament championship match, destined to become a 3 hour, 38-minute, 15-12, 21-19, 13-15, 16-18, 24-22 epic, with UH prevailing over Brigham Young.
It was also the last time UH and BYU met as WAC members.
We bring this up because the two schools open a two-match series tomorrow night at the Stan Sheriff Center that marks the resumption of competition after a seven-year separation.
For a brief, hopeful, time it also seemed as if this one might be the precursor to a WAC reunion. A long overdue one.
When BYU and the WAC were in negotiations last month about the Cougars’ return in all sports except football to a conference they helped found, one of the biggest anticipated beneficiaries was to be women’s volleyball.
Specifically, BYU would get the benefit of an elevated Ratings Percentage Index number and UH would regain an old rival. Both of which would have been a bonus for the WAC. Gaining BYU would have mitigated any loss of Boise State, Fresno or Nevada, and given UH a rival, something it has only loosely had in 14 WAC seasons.
But not long after Fresno State and Nevada turned tail and reneged on a solidarity agreement that was barely dry, the whole grand scheme collapsed.
Instead, BYU eventually announced plans to join the West Coast Conference in 2011-12 instead of the WAC. And, UH will do what it has always done amid the WAC membership fluctuations, keep on rolling over whatever is in its path.
The loss of BYU is regrettable because reuniting with UH had real potential, most notably in football, baseball and women’s volleyball. "I was excited about getting them back in the conference," said Dave Shoji, the UH coach. "It would have been good for them — and us."
Be assured, he says that for more reasons than just the Rainbow Wahine’s 15-5 mastery over the years.
The Cougars who come to Manoa tomorrow are a bit down and out at 3-7, compared to BYU teams of the past.
But the crowds they will perform in front of here will be the biggest they will see all year — and then some. The Rainbow Wahine team they meet will be the highest-ranked opponent they play in a while.
And the atmosphere they step into will be unlike any other they will encounter. Well, at least until they come back some day. Whenever that might be.
As such, it might be a good idea for these Cougars to take some long looks around in the Stan Sheriff Center and let it all soak in.
And, then, reflect upon what they will be missing.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.