We can say it now with true conviction.
Finally. Hawaii to the Mountain West and Big West. Signed, sealed and delivered.
That strange news conference last month spurred cautious optimism, but tempered with a dose of paranoia. It was replaced yesterday by sheer joy and hope for the future of UH sports, an early Christmas present for the fans and everyone else with some connection.
Even one of the most confident players in this saga told me last night that he was, "like everyone else, on pins and needles." But it all came together in a nice little package yesterday, as most everyone involved expected but didn’t dare promise.
And this time, they even remembered to call Karl Benson, the WAC commissioner who just lost his last remaining decent program. The WAC has three nationally ranked football teams right now — after next season, they’ll all be gone.
With everything added up and subtracted, Hawaii benefited from its 32 years in the WAC, but there was clearly no reason to stay. And commend UH’s leadership team with making a successful proactive move.
AMID THE GENERAL giddiness, some unanswered questions remained.
» Travel subsidies? UH officials declined to give us an estimate of how much it’s going to cost to fly the Big West and Mountain West teams here for games. But the San Diego State athletic director said it would be between $150,000 and $175,000 for each visiting football team.
Don’t forget the UH athletic department is still in a deficit. It needs to make some kind of deal with Hawaiian Airlines.
» TV revenue? Athletic director Jim Donovan answered this one without really answering, saying that it’s still being worked out. The way he put it, it sounds like the Mountain West will pretty much dictate what happens, since it will now own the football TV rights.
BUT POSITIVES abound.
The Mountain West is losing BYU, TCU and Utah, but it’s still a lot better for football than staying in the WAC or going independent. In the Big West, baseball, especially, will provide better competition and opportunities.
"Not only does the Big West have multiple teams in the regionals every year," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "But some years multiple teams in the College World Series."
Look for Trapasso to successfully recruit elite pitchers, now that the Rainbows won’t have to throw at altitude. Playing all these California schools should benefit basketball and volleyball recruiting, too.
GPA? Logic tells us that if your travel is to LA instead of La. — Los Angeles instead of Louisiana — you will have more time and energy to do well in school, not to mention in your sport.
And if the Mountain West gets up to 12 schools, splitting into Pacific and Rockies divisions, UH will save considerably on football travel, too … money and wear-and-tear on student-athletes.
So the travel equation can work both ways.
"On average, we’re looking at one less day traveling for each trip for all sports," Donovan said. "That means less missed classes."
Speaking of school, the really great news yesterday got buried: A 100 percent graduation rate for football’s seniors this year, 28-for-28. That’s tremendous, and reminds us about the real goal of what’s going on here.
"That’s one of the things we found especially attractive about the Big West," UH president M.R.C. Greenwood said. "Our teams playing closer to home and in a conference where the academic standards are pretty high."
So, despite the loose ends and the rain, it was a beautiful day for UH sports — especially considering the uncertainty and anxiety of just a few weeks ago. Or, for the truly paranoid, just a few hours ago.