Schedule not as stiff like in past

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - SPORTS - By DAVE REAR­DON

Up­per­class­men on the Univer­sity of Hawaii foot­ball team are the most widely trav­eled in school his­tory.

In 2015 and ‘16, the Rain­bow War­riors took on a good chunk of the up­per crust of the Big Ten — and at their very large sta­di­ums. The re­sults at Wis­con­sin, Ohio State and Michi­gan were not pretty on the score­board but they helped UH’s fi­nances.

To start last season, UH went 5,000 miles in one di­rec­tion, play­ing Cal in Aus­tralia. Last week, Hawaii started 2017 go­ing the same dis­tance the other way, to the East Coast of the United States.

“If you’re a ju­nior now, you’ve had some pretty in­ter­est­ing (road) ex­pe­ri­ences,” UH ath­letic di­rec­tor David Matlin said.

This time, Hawaii fi­nally emerged with a non­con­fer­ence vic­tory away from home, beat­ing UMass 38-35.

There’s no such thing as an easy schedule for UH, but in rel­a­tive terms the way the rest of the 2017 slate shapes up is about as man­age­able as can be ex­pected for col­lege foot­ball’s most ge­o­graph­i­cally iso­lated pro­gram.

There are no road games on con­sec­u­tive weeks. That means a team that is as re­freshed as pos­si­ble as the season wears on. It also means no pos­si­bil­i­ties of stay­ing on the con­ti­nent be­tween games, re­sult­ing in fewer missed classes for stu­dent-ath­letes.

After Satur­day’s home opener against West­ern Carolina, the ‘Bows play at UCLA on Sept. 9. Then they get a bye be­fore go­ing to Wy­oming on Sept. 23. They are at Ne­vada on Oct. 7 and UNLV on Nov. 4.

Other than the pos­si­bil­ity of chal­leng­ing weather when it goes to Utah State for a game Nov. 18, UH’s most ar­du­ous travel of the season is done be­fore more than 90 per­cent of the other Divi­sion I pro­grams have even played a game.

The Rain­bow War­riors can thank Week Zero for that. If UH hadn’t been able to resched­ule its game at UMass for last Satur­day — as one of just 10 teams play­ing na­tion­wide — the War­riors would’ve had to go all the way to Amherst, Mass., be­tween two other games.

Now, UH gets two pre­cious byes in its 12-game reg­u­lar-season schedule.

How about fu­ture years? If Hawaii ended up with such a com­fort­able schedule for 2017, why not ev­ery year? It’s just not that easy. Un­for­tu­nately for UH in 2018, op­po­nents were un­able to ac­com­mo­date the War­riors when the Week Zero ex­emp­tion be­came avail­able. The way things stand now Hawaii will have 13 games in 13 weeks. The no-bye schedule in­cludes a 10,000-mile round trip for a Sept. 15 game at Army, sand­wiched by home games against Rice and Duquesne (an FCS pro­gram, but one that has had just one los­ing season this decade).

The other non­con­fer­ence games next year are the Sept. 1 season opener at home against Navy,

and Oct. 13 at BYU.

Any schedule with­out a break is tough by def­i­ni­tion, but on the pos­i­tive side there is no so-called “body bag” game against an elite Power Five pro­gram.

The fol­low­ing year, 2019, will have 13 games, but in­cludes a bye. It is Pac-12 heavy as Hawaii opens at home on Week Zero against Ari­zona (Aug. 24). The rest of the non­con­fer­ence slate is home games against Ore­gon State (Sept. 7), Cen­tral Arkansas (Sept. 21) and Army (Nov. 30), with a road game at Wash­ing­ton (Sept. 14).

Three games are booked for 2020 so far; at Ari­zona (Sept. 5), home against Ford­ham (Sept. 12) and at Ore­gon (Sept. 19).

Would the Min­ute­men be will­ing to re­turn to Hawaii in three years for a Week Zero game? After fall­ing to Hawaii in frus­trat­ing fash­ion twice in a row now, UMass has got to be even hun­grier for redemp­tion — and as an in­de­pen­dent, it needs games, pe­riod.

“I met with their ath­letic di­rec­tor (Ryan Bam­ford),” Matlin said. “We talked about it, I think it’s a pos­si­bil­ity. Ob­vi­ously if we go all that way there’d have to be a bye, or a Week Zero set-up.”

Matlin’s ideal for­mula for UH at this point is one big-money game against a Power Five elite team and one against an FCS op­po­nent. The other two or three games would be home-and-home ar­range­ments with var­i­ous FBS pro­grams.

Non­con­fer­ence sched­ul­ing is a puz­zle and a bal­anc­ing act. UMass’ small sta­dium and fan base, lack of win­ning tra­di­tion in FBS and dis­tance from Hawaii might all seem like deal-break­ers for UH.

But these pro­grams have now played two very ex­cit­ing games against each other. And a schedule with one more week of breath­ing room makes ge­og­ra­phy less of a prob­lem.

“There are com­pet­i­tive fac­tors, fi­nan­cial fac­tors, and travel fac­tors,” Matlin said. “And the goal of not play­ing 13 games in 13 weeks.”

Reach Dave Rear­don at drea­r­don@starad­ver­ [mailto:drea­r­don@ starad­ver­] or 529-4783. His blog is at Hawai­i­war­rior­

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