In recognition of his returning home to be the University of Hawaii’s first keiki o ka ‘aina head coach in nearly 40 years, last December the school presented Norm Chow with lei — and this schedule.
And, he still said “Thanks.”
So, even before he calls his first play, Chow has already earned at least one historical distinction: the first UH head football coach to debut against the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll, Southern California.
And in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on national TV, too.
The consolation is, of course, that it can’t get any tougher than that unless athletic director Rockne Freitas books the Detroit Lions somewhere down the line.
“I like Rock,” Chow said. “We go way back. He wouldn’t do that.”
For the moment there are enough challenges that loom for Chow as the Warriors step into the Mountain West, return to unforgiving Provo, Utah, and say goodbye to Boise State and San Diego State.
Chow came to UH pledging to “chase championships,” but the reality is with all that is on the Warriors’ plate this year — new coaches, new systems, transitioning players, etc. — that chase will have to be taken up in a subsequent season.
In the meantime, pursuing bowl eligibility will be challenge enough this go-around. The Warriors play a 12-game regular season this year for the first time since 2007, the result of Texas State pulling out of a game. Which means the Warriors require at least a 6-6 record to achieve eligibility for the postseason and book a place in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
So, you can divide the UH schedule three ways: four games they should win (Lamar, New Mexico, Nevada-Las Vegas and South Alabama), four games where they will be considerable underdogs (USC, BYU, Boise State and Air Force) and four where they should be reasonable underdogs (Nevada, San Diego State, Colorado State and Fresno State).
Taking care of business in the first group and somehow splitting that last one might be too much to ask. But we’ll ask anyway because, well, he didn’t say “no” when he saw the schedule.
The last time UH left the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (2003), it was with USC’s famed fight song, “Fight On!,” ringing in its helmet ear holes following a 61-32 loss.
UH figures to get real familiar with the tune again.
Pay attention, UH trivia fans: The Cardinals from Beaumont, Texas, are destined to become the answer to a future question. Such as, “Who was Chow’s first Warrior victory over?
Having tried various other approaches without success, it looks like head coach Chris Ault and the Nevada Wolf Pack might have finally found out how to win a game at Aloha Stadium — bring ex-Warrior quarterback and player Nick Rolovich with them as offensive coordinator.
AT BRIGHAM YOUNG
As an assistant coach at BYU for 26 years, Chow used to love it when air-gasping sea level teams came to 4,630-foot Cougar Stadium at the foot of the majestic Wasatch Range.
This time maybe not so much.
AT SAN DIEGO STATE
After a 13-year absence in their conference series with the Aztecs it is one and done as San Diego State moves on to the Big East after this season.
The Warriors will not miss ’em.
The last time Bob Davie brought a team to Aloha Stadium as a head coach, it was 1998 and Notre Dame was that team. History will record that the Fighting Irish were fortunate to beat UH, 23-22.
This time Davie doesn’t have the Irish or their luck.
AT COLORADO STATE
If the Warriors are going to “steal” a road victory this season, Fort Collins, Colo., will have to be the place.
AT FRESNO STATE
Sadly, Pat Hill, the fierce Bulldogs coach UH loved to hate, is gone. But the Red Wave and their “Red Mile” gauntlet remain. This being the back end of consecutive road games doesn’t help, either.
It could be one Halawa long wait until we see the Broncos, who can’t wait to bolt to the Big East, in Aloha Stadium against the Warriors again.
Unfortunately, this one won’t be one to remember while we wait.
AT AIR FORCE
Playing in the rarified air of the Air Force Academy is tough anytime for UH.
But a night game in the middle of November (average high temperature 40 degrees at kickoff) might be the most challenging one yet for UH.
The UNLV game was the tipping point for Greg McMackin’s ill-fated tenure last year.
It could be the start of something more promising for his successor, Chow.
Nine years earlier — almost to the day — UH knocked off Alabama, the big Crimson one, at Aloha Stadium.
This one won’t be as noteworthy but it figures to make for a soothing end to Chow’s inaugural UH season.