Until last year about this time, the Ohio State football team’s deepening NCAA problems, such as the ones that led to Terrelle Pryor’s departure Tuesday, would have presented a considerable opportunity for the University of Hawaii.
As soon as the NCAA gumshoes descended upon Columbus, Ohio, the Warriors would have been on the phone offering consoling words and a plan to help soften any impending postseason sanctions.
Some called it the “paradise plan” and UH’s spiel went like this: If you can’t go to a bowl, then why not play a 13th regular-season game here and treat it like one? If you have to do NCAA hard time, where better than in paradise?
It helped teams under the NCAA hammer touch all the important bases, keeping their players motivated, recruits interested and boosters donating while grabbing TV time.
And of all the miscreants who found their way to our shores, nobody loved it more or took better advantage of it than Alabama.
That, it turns out, was the problem.
One minute the Crimson Tide were getting their hides tanned by the NCAA for booster payments to recruits and the next they were out sunning them on the beach in Waikiki. Its unrepentant fans waving “NCAA, glad you’re not here” signs at Aloha Stadium.
Not exactly the image of contrition the NCAA was looking for. And that did not go over well back at headquarters.
In 85 previous seasons, the Crimson Tide had never had much interest in playing UH — until it went into the postseason slammer. Then, all of a sudden, it was here in 2002 and ’03, with 8,000 of its red-clad fans. Roll Tide, indeed.
UH didn’t come out of it too badly, either. The Warriors sold out the first meeting and won the second one, 37-29. And, because they prevailed, Alabama paid handsomely ($650,000) to get them to Tuscaloosa in 2006 for the last word, a 25-17 victory.
Other teams bound for the NCAA hoosegow, including Arizona State and Southern Methodist (Aloha Bowl), made sure they got in a visit before the gavel came down. But Alabama spoiled it for everybody.
Too bad, too, because with the way teams in the Southeastern Conference have piled up NCAA infractions, UH could have regularly filled a late-season slot just with teams from that conference.
So when USC got nailed by the NCAA last year, the committee on infractions quickly forbade the Trojans from taking advantage of the so-called Hawaii exception that permits a 13th game. Never mind that the game had been scheduled before Reggie Bush had even set foot on the USC campus.
Eventually, the NCAA came around and allowed the contest to be played, but not before the message was received loud and clear in Manoa: Don’t flaunt that 13th game if you want to keep it.
So, as much as the Ohio State headlines might have him thinking about what could have been, you won’t catch UH athletic director Jim Donovan punching in area code 614 on his phone.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.