Wherever the shifting college landscape takes the University of Hawaii football team, "We have your back," the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl pledged yesterday.
That means as long as the Warriors are bowl eligible — whether they’re in the Western Athletic Conference, another league or an independent — they will be assured of a place in their backyard bowl through at least 2013, under a three-year extension announced by the title sponsor and ESPN Regional Television, the game’s owner-operator.
Coupled with ERT’s operation of the UH-hosted Diamond Head Classic for men’s basketball and ongoing talks about future partnerships, the school has some assets to employ in exploring its future.
With UH head coach Greg McMackin and members of the Warriors football team in the room at a campus press conference, Keith Vieira, a senior vice president for Starwood Hotels, said, "I think during these trying (economic) times, as we go through difficult decisions on what schedules and conferences are going to lay ahead of us, we want to make sure coach and the team knows we have their back."
Without the guarantee of a bowl to fall back on, UH’s options, especially independence, could have been reduced in planning for the future.
"Our intent is to go where UH goes," said Pete Derzis senior vice president of ERT.
"I can’t thank you enough for stepping up and the statement you are making by the extension of three years," athletic director Jim Donovan said.
ERT spokesmen declined to reveal the new terms of the agreement, except to acknowledged they were an improvement on previous ones.
The Dec. 24 game at Aloha Stadium will be the ninth Hawaii Bowl. UH has appeared in five of the previous eight. It skipped the 2007 game to play in the Sugar Bowl and was not bowl eligible in 2005 and ’09.
The bowl was born following the disappointment of 2001, when the Warriors knocked off then-No. 9 Brigham Young to finish 9-3 and were left out of the postseason.
UH will play a representative from Conference USA if it wins seven games or more in a 13-game season to achieve bowl eligibility.
Derzis said he and Donovan have had "general discussion about (other) opportunities" but said it was "very premature" to reveal them.
He said ERT and UH have not discussed a possible TV contract, since the school is still covered by its WAC agreement. A separate TV deal would be necessary for UH to help underwrite independence.