Schedule not as stiff like in past
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 firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:dreardon@ staradvertiser.com] or 529-4783. His blog is at Hawaiiwarriorworld.com/quick-reads