The University of Hawaii football team is "leaning toward" returning home between its back-to-back nonconference road games in September, but rising airfare prices might make that an unaffordable luxury for the athletic department, officials said.
The eight fare increases adopted this year due to rising fuel costs have the Warriors carefully checking the bottom line when it comes to travel plans for this season, most notably the Washington and Nevada-Las Vegas road games.
Travel, at nearly 15 percent, is the athletic department’s third-largest expense after salaries and benefits and scholarships. With traveling groups of 80 for each trip, football is the biggest travel spender at upwards of $1 million per year. UH is expected to travel more than 35,000 miles this season.
"Because of (missed class time), we’d really, really like to get the student-athletes back (to campus) after the first (road) game," said athletic director Jim Donovan, who said he "leans" in that direction. "But if the cost is going to be exorbitant, then we’ll have to look at remaining on the mainland," Donovan said.
Donovan estimates UH could save three days of classes by coming home immediately after the Sept. 10 game with Washington in Seattle, instead of remaining on the mainland leading up to the Sept. 17 game at UNLV.
But he said that doesn’t appear to be possible by commercial flight and the school is attempting to find a charter that fits its time constraints and budget.
For the past four seasons, UH has remained on the mainland when faced with consecutive road games. Last year UH played at Army and Colorado in succession with a stopover in Las Vegas in between. Two years ago the Warriors played Washington State in Seattle and at UNLV in consecutive games and in 2008 it stayed in El Paso, Texas, between games at Utah State and New Mexico State. UH split on those last three road trips. Only in the Sugar Bowl season of 2007, when it stayed in Houston between games at Louisiana tech and UNLV did it sweep.
Donovan said it didn’t make sense for UH to play at West Point, N.Y., last year, fly home and then head out to Colorado three days later. In addition, UH estimated it saved about $50,000 by not returning home.
But this year, with the possibility of direct flights on both legs, Donovan said "even though it might cost us a little more, you want to try to balance that with the amount of time they are going to be away from school. I think it is important to cut down on missed class time if we can."