An emotional week was punctuated with the University of Hawaii football team’s official acceptance to play in the EasyPost Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
The Rainbow Warriors will face Memphis in the nationally televised game at the Ching Complex on the Manoa campus.
At 6-7, the Warriors were chosen as an alternate when the NCAA created a 42nd bowl on Thursday. The Warriors did not meet the bowl-eligible requirement of a .500 or better regular season. With 83 qualifying teams for 82 slots, the Warriors were first on the waiting list if two teams declined bowl invitations. But the NCAA opened the way for the Warriors when it added two more slots, bringing the total to 84. The Warriors are the only 6-7 team among 130 FBS programs.
“The bottom line is we’re here,” head coach Todd Graham said of the Warriors’ fourth bowl invitation in as many years.
But the program absorbed some hits in the days following last week’s 38-14 road upset of Wyoming, the Warriors’ first victory in Laramie since 1991. Three starters — quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, running back Dae Dae Hunter and cornerback Cameron Lockridge — entered the NCAA’s transfer portal. All three are ineligible to play in the Hawaii Bowl because of their new recruitable status.
Graham has described Cordeiro’s departure as “heartbreaking,” and characterized the co-captain as a “first-class young man.”
“It’s kind of the world we live in with the transfer portal,” Graham said. “You look around the country and you’ve got teams that are competing for the playoff (and) got 10 guys in the portal. It’s just the way it’s going to be. I’ve got to focus on the people that want to be here and want to be a part of what we’re doing.”
Graham said he does not have a Twitter account and did not follow the five-hour Twitter Spaces conversation in which some players expressed frustration with the program.
“I don’t read Twitter, I don’t do those things,” Graham told reporters. “I can tell you my deal is focusing on being positive. We have enough negative things. … At the end of the day, those things are what they are. We talk every day about the commitment, what that commitment is, and working hard. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to be demanding. And when you’re doing things the right way, you have things like that. … Not always going to make everybody happy. We’ve got a great belief in what we’re doing. We know we’re doing things the right way, and we’re making progress.”
Graham recalled Buddy Copeland, his middle school coach who served as a mentor and father figure.
“When I was playing for him, I didn’t always like it,” Graham said. “He was giving me discipline. He was giving me tough love. He was giving me those things. I’m kind of thankful I didn’t have Twitter to complain because I probably would have complained. … My deal is it’s a very critical time in our program and the future of our program. I’ve got to be focused on the positive.”
For more Hawaii football, visit the Warrior Beat blog.