For a couple of years now, the University of Hawaii athletic department has painstakingly trimmed and tightened its bottom line in an attempt to put the brakes on a runaway accumulated net deficit of $10 million.
But given the choice of taking a huge step toward winning the Western Athletic Conference football championship or moving closer to balancing the budget, there’s no question which is preferable Saturday.
Paying back a defector or paying off for some of the debt really isn’t even a dilemma for the Warriors this weekend.
As a UH figure put it, "nobody’s rooting for the bookkeeper (right now)."
Not when an upset of No. 2-ranked Boise State, a 21-point favorite, would be celebrated far more than the loss of an enhanced Bowl Championship Series check would be mourned.
To be sure, the football team is thinking much more in terms of the offensive and defensive lines than the department’s bottom line. The Warriors would like to beat the Broncos because there is no higher challenge in the WAC and, maybe, all of college football right now.
But somehow the absurd notion that UH needs the BCS check an unbeaten Boise State might deliver more than a milestone victory has gained a foothold judging from e-mails and online posts.
"Because the WAC champion is not an automatic qualifier to the BCS Bowls, it would behoove Hawaii to lose to Boise Saturday to allow Boise State to collect the … payday," writes one well-meaning but short-sighted fan.
Suggestions the Warriors can’t afford the price of victory should make you shake your head.
The Warriors have never beaten a team this highly ranked and to do it on national TV at a time when their conference future is up in the air would be more providential than problematic.
If Boise State gets past UH, its biggest hurdle on the way to a 12-0 season, the Broncos could end up in the BCS, where UH’s share of the take, WAC sources say, would be approximately $1,055,000, depending on some BCS variables calculated at season’s end.
However, should TCU or Utah crack the BCS instead of Boise State, UH’s share would be approximately $429,500. Without any nonautomatic nonqualifier in the BCS, an unlikely scenario this year, UH stands to receive about $311,000.
Clearly, $625,500 — the difference in UH’s pocket between Boise State cracking the BCS and getting left out — is hardly small change, especially in the Warriors’ current financial straits.
But a victory over Boise State would likely pay dividends above and beyond one paycheck. It would, for example, complete the deserter trifecta of Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State.
That would be something UH could sell at the box office for its two remaining home games, not to mention for next year’s season tickets and in recruiting.
Potentially more important, it would be a resume builder for wherever the future takes UH. If the Mountain West goes looking for another member, what better credentials to claim than having beaten its three much-advertised newcomers?
If UH decides to go independent, what stronger bargaining chip could you take to the table in TV negotiations?
Beating Boise State Saturday is a tough assignment. Settling for a smaller check wouldn’t be.