The Rainbow lives.
In a stunning reversal of his first major decision as University of Hawaii athletic director, Ben Jay has changed course and will name all of Manoa’s men’s athletic teams Rainbow Warriors.
Jay became UH athletic director in January. In February he announced that all UH men’s teams would be named Warriors, dropping Rainbows from those that still had it part of their name. Since 2000, some had been named Rainbows, some Warriors and some Rainbow Warriors.
“The decision on February 13 to change the nickname of the men’s teams to Warriors has generated a lot of discussion and we have received both positive and negative feedback,” Jay said. “We listened to the public discussion and we went back to the original two questions we asked ourselves – who are we and what is representative of the islands?
“We initially decided to adopt Warriors as the nickname of our men’s teams, since it was used by the majority of our men’s programs, including the one with the largest fan following (football),” Jay added. “This is a very subjective and emotional issue and the only clear consensus on this topic over the last 13 years has been that a decision needed to be made to unify our men’s teams under one nickname. That goal will still be accomplished as we retain the Rainbow and Warriors names, both of which are near and dear to the hearts of our fans, whom we represent.”
Jay said in February that the various names caused confusion and a single name was needed for marketing and branding purposes. He said he consulted with UH coaches and most agreed on Warriors and staying with Rainbow Wahine for the women’s teams. Public comments by coaches were positive or neutral to Jay’s decision then, and were again on Tuesday for the latest move.
“It’s a decision made far above my level,” football coach Norm Chow said at a press conference at the UH lower campus. “We’re all very supportive of it. Our job is to put a good product on the football field. That’s what we need to worry about. I’m glad the decision has been made, we’re supportive of the administration and we’ll just go from there.
Said Mike Trapasso, coach of the 12-33 Rainbow baseball team: “You can call us whatever you want, this year we’ve been called a heck of a lot worse. I said from the beginning, to me it’s more important that you call us winners at the end of the day, and that’s what we’re working toward. But we’re Rainbow Warriors, and I think that’s great.”
Some fans welcomed the February decision while others complained that they were not consulted or polled. A rally was held on campus May 3 by around 50 supporters of the Rainbow nickname, and 21 board members of the UH Letterwinners Club sent a letter to Jay on May 1 protesting the elimination of Rainbow from the men’s team names.
Jay was on the mainland on UH business and did not appear at the rally, but had previously met with rally organizer Stephen Chinen.
“Of course I’m walkin on clouds amongst da rainbows,” Chinen said in a text today after hearing of Jay’s decision. Chinen has been a vocal proponent of the Rainbow Warriors nickname since it was changed 13 years ago.
The women’s teams will remain Rainbow Wahine, as Jay originally decided.
The football team had been unofficially referred to as Rainbow Warriors prior to 2000, when football coach June Jones led a successful effort to officially change the name to just Warriors. Coaches were allowed to choose the names of their teams, and volleyball, golf and tennis switched to Warriors, basketball and swimming and diving went to Rainbow Warriors and baseball remained Rainbows.
Now, instead of all switching to Warriors on July 1, all will be known as Rainbow Warriors.
Early reaction from fans on social media to Jay’s change of course ranged from gratitude to disdain.
“Thank you, Ben Jay,” said former UH baseball player Greg Oniate.
Paul Connell, a fan who prefers the Warrior name, said the amount of support expressed for Rainbow did not merit a change.
“Ben Jay just dropped a notch in my book,” Connell said. “Only 50 or so people felt the urge to attend a Rainbow rally that had been promoted for weeks.”
Jay is scheduled to speak about his vision for the UH athletic program 7 p.m. on Thursday at a town hall meeting at the Pearl Ridge Elementary School cafeteria.