Dick Tomey, who shepherded the University of Hawaii football program in its Division I infancy, is returning to the Warriors as the special teams coordinator.
Tomey, 72, who was UH’s head coach for 10 seasons through the 1986 season, did not return messages left on his cell phone yesterday.
But multiple sources said Tomey will be introduced as a UH assistant coach at a news conference today.
Tomey will fill the vacancy created when Chris Tormey, who coached the Warriors’ safeties and special teams the past two seasons, resigned three weeks ago to accept a coaching position at Washington State. It is believed that, for now, Tomey only will be in charge of special teams. The Warriors open spring training March 9.
After announcing his "retirement" as San Jose State’s head coach at the end of the 2009 season, Tomey was hired as an outside consultant for the University of Texas. He also has lived part-time in Honolulu, where he and his wife own a house in Kahala.
Joe Onosai, a pastor who played at UH in the early 1980s, is writing a book on his seven mentors.
"He’s one of them," Onosai said. "He missed his calling. He should have been a preacher, minus the F-bombs. He would have been perfect. He’s so eloquent. He’s articulate. He has a way with words that gets to your soul."
At UH, Tomey was known for his innovation, such as the swinging-gate formation for extra-point kicks, the "fumblerooski" trick play, and requiring players to go through the mind-over-matter technique of walking on hot coals while chanting "cool moss, cool moss."
He often was cited for his line in a commercial in which he spoke of comparing "apples and oranges."
To his players, lessons were boiled down to: "football is a microcosm of life."
But to his UH players and assistant coaches, he was, despite his background in baseball, a football guy.
After coaching stints in the Midwest and UCLA, Tomey was hired as UH head coach in 1977, two years before the then-Rainbow Warriors became full-fledged members of the Western Athletic Conference.
His UH teams were built for aggressive defense, their commitment to being "in position to win in the fourth quarter," and, of course, to beat nemesis Brigham Young.
The latter’s pursuit would be fulfilled by his successor, Bob Wagner, who was named UH head coach after Tomey, in an emotional news conference, announced he would be going to the University of Arizona.
By then, Tomey was the Rainbow Warriors’ winningest head coach (a mark eventually surpassed by June Jones), and had guided UH to its first top-20 ranking (in 1981).
He also left behind the blueprints of a double-eagle defense that eventually would be renamed Desert Swarm at Arizona. Many of those schemes are incorporated in the 3-4 attacking defenses used in the NFL.
After winning 95 games at Arizona — also a school record — he resigned in 2000, then spent the next two years as a football analyst for KFVE.
He was an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2003, and assistant head coach at Texas in 2004. He joined San Jose State the following year.
"He was such a motivator," Onosai said. "We would want to run through walls for him. I didn’t realize a guy could have so much power. You never wanted to get him upset. When his baby-blue eyes looked into your eyes, they were piercing.
"My freshman year, I was late to a pregame meeting. I’ll never forget how embarrassed I was when he picked on me. I was never late for a meeting after that."