comscore COVID-19’s impact dominated local sports in 2020 | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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COVID-19’s impact dominated local sports in 2020

  • GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM 
                                The empty seats of Aloha Stadium following the University of Hawaii Warriors football game against Nevada on Nov. 28.

    GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The empty seats of Aloha Stadium following the University of Hawaii Warriors football game against Nevada on Nov. 28.

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaii running back Calvin Turner (7) puts the stiff arm on UNLV defensive back Tyson Player (14) during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, December 12, 2020 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hawaii won 38-21.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaii running back Calvin Turner (7) puts the stiff arm on UNLV defensive back Tyson Player (14) during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, December 12, 2020 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hawaii won 38-21.

  • TONY HEFF / WORLD SURF LEAGUE VIA GETTY IMAGES
                                Two-time WSL Champion John John Florence of Hawaii is the winner of the Billabong Pipe Masters Presented by Hyro Flask on December 20, 2020 in Oahu, Hawaii.

    TONY HEFF / WORLD SURF LEAGUE VIA GETTY IMAGES

    Two-time WSL Champion John John Florence of Hawaii is the winner of the Billabong Pipe Masters Presented by Hyro Flask on December 20, 2020 in Oahu, Hawaii.

  • GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM 
                                The University of Hawaii basketball team warmed up in front of cardboard cutouts prior to its game against Hawaii-Hilo on Dec. 19 at the renamed SimpliFi Arena. Fans have not been able to attend UH events since the pandemic shut down sports in March.

    GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The University of Hawaii basketball team warmed up in front of cardboard cutouts prior to its game against Hawaii-Hilo on Dec. 19 at the renamed SimpliFi Arena. Fans have not been able to attend UH events since the pandemic shut down sports in March.

One day, March 11, the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine basketball team savored an opening-round victory over Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Conference basketball tournament in Anaheim, Calif., and looked forward to its semifinal matchup.

The next day, without so much as having dribbled another basketball, they were on their way home, among the first Hawaii sports victims of the on-rushing COVID-19 pandemic that sent the local sports world spinning as it did life in general.

In short order all college and high school sports were canceled, leaving gyms, fields and pools closed. Some still are.

Several major sporting events, including the Lotte Championship, Honolulu Marathon, Diamond Head Classic and SoFi Hawaii Bowl, were canceled for the year.

Not until more than seven months later, Oct. 24, when UH opened its delayed and truncated football season at Fresno State, would there be competition for one of its sports teams again.

For the Rainbow Wahine, it would be nine months later, Dec. 14, before they returned to the court in competition, hosting Hawaii Pacific University.

UH FOOTBALL

Less than two weeks into the new year, 2020 had already become a year of change for UH football.

On Jan. 9, quarterback Cole McDonald announced plans to give up his final year of eligibility to pursue the NFL Draft. Four days later it was announced that head coach Nick Rolovich was leaving for greener pastures at Washington State.

By the time his replacement, Todd Graham, was chosen, hired a staff and plans to begin spring practice were ready, the pandemic hit.

The Rainbow Warriors won their opening game under the new regime and finished 5-4, culminating their season with a victory over Houston in the New Mexico Bowl in Frisco, Texas. Receiver/running back Calvin Turner, above, led the Warriors with 11 touchdowns.

WSL RETURNS

After the pandemic took away the major part of 2020 from local pro surfers, the World Surf League debuted its 2021 season here last month.

Previously, the WSL had concluded its men’s and women’s championship tours here but used the opening to begin its calendar in Hawaii under an agreement with the state and counties that toed the line on COVID-19 prevention and social distancing by not permitting spectators on the beach.

The women’s championship tour opened with the Maui Pro, which began at Honolua Bay and was relocated to Banzai Pipeline where Australian Tyler Wright won the first women’s championship held at the mythical site long claimed and dominated by men. John John Florence, above, won the Pipeline Masters on the same day.

ALOHA STADIUM

While 45-year-old Aloha Stadium closes in on the end of its usefulness, plans for building its successor hit a snag in 2020.

Due to a flaw in the proposed measure, the state Legislature adjourned without passing Senate Bill 2940, which would have transferred authority over the project from the Hawaii Community Development Authority to the Aloha Stadium Authority.

Now it will be up to the Legislature to pass the bill when the new session opens in January before a winning builder can be named from among three finalists.

The delay may cause the state to have to push back its projected Sept. 2, 2023, projected opening.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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