Sched­ules pack punch for ’Bows

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - SPORTS - By FERD LEWIS

The scary part about the vi­sion of the Univer­sity of Hawaii foot­ball team miss­ing out on bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity isn’t just what it says for this sea­son but what it might por­tend for the near fu­ture.

In ab­sorb­ing their sev­enth loss in 10 games this sea­son Satur­day night against Fresno State, (with two games re­main­ing) the Rain­bow War­riors are los­ing out on what had lined up as their best shot at bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity for sev­eral years to come.

Af­ter all, if you can’t crack at least .500 against what the NCAA ranks as the 115th tough­est sched­ule (out of 131 schools) this year, what does that say about your chances next year — or 2019 and 2020 — when the sched­ules have the po­ten­tial to be more ar­du­ous?

What it sug­gests is that the hope that UH’s Hawaii Bowl re­turn in 2016 had en­gen­dered is now re­placed by con­cern and ur­gency look­ing for­ward on a cou­ple of fronts. FU­TURE SCHED­ULES UH non­con­fer­ence op­po­nents 2018 • Navy • Rice • At Army • Duquesne • At BYU

2019 • Ari­zona

• Ore­gon State

• At Wash­ing­ton

• C. Arkansas

• Army 2020

• At Ari­zona

• Ford­ham

• AT Ore­gon As if the prospect of Colorado State play­ing SMU here in the Christ­mas Eve Hawaii Bowl, as some sce­nar­ios have it painted this week, isn’t enough food for thought.

Next year Army (8-2) and Navy (6-3) re­place Mas­sachusetts (3-7) and UCLA (5-5). Mean­while, UH must cope with the de­par­ture of Dio­cemy Saint Juste, who will leave Manoa as no worse than the sec­ond-most pro­duc­tive run­ning back in school his­tory, and at least five se­nior of­fen­sive line­men.

But 2019 is where the sched­ules re­ally force UH to step it up with games against Wash­ing­ton, Ari­zona and Ore­gon State. In 2020, UH goes on the road to Ore­gon and Ari­zona.

So, un­less UH plans to make Arkansas-Pine Bluff an an­nual sta­ple of its foot­ball sched­ules in the Pac-12’s place there is much work to be done and not much time in which to do it.

Nor has there been much to show for the much-hoped for im­prove­ment in the Moun­tain West Con­fer­ence. De­spite the MWC suf­fer­ing through one of its worst sea­sons, UH is just 1-6 in con­fer­ence.

In its five years of mem­ber­ship UH is 9-38 in con­fer­ence reg­u­lar-sea­son games. And, at Aloha Sta­dium, where vis­i­tors like to moan about the de­mands of travel de­spite ar­riv­ing by UH-paid char­ter, the ‘Bows are only 5-19.

Thanks heav­ens for the in­ep­ti­tude of San Jose State (1-10) or it would be UH peer­ing out the cel­lar door these days.

By com­par­i­son, 2017 of­fered what had seemed like a pretty wide win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity. Es­pe­cially when you con­sider the ‘Bows played just a 12-game sched­ule and had the ben­e­fit of two well-placed open dates.

Not that it ended up do­ing them much good.

Mean­while you have to won­der what they are re­ally think­ing back in Char­lotte, N.C., at the head­quar­ters of ESPN Events, a di­vi­sion of the ESPN mother ship, that owns and op­er­ates the Hawaii Bowl.

Once upon a now-dis­tant time it was feared that UH would be­come too com­mon a fix­ture in its back­yard bowl with six ap­pear­ances in the first nine years. But af­ter just one UH ap­pear­ance (2016) in what will soon be­come a seven-year stretch how much longer is ESPN Events go­ing to be will­ing to keep a light on for the ‘Bows?

ESPN has been cut­ting costs in many ar­eas as it hem­or­rhages sub­scribers and as the owner and op­er­a­tor of more than a dozen bowls al­ready, how many years with­out a UH pres­ence driv­ing the box of­fice or a ti­tle spon­sor is it will­ing to put up with?

The prospect of UH miss­ing out on the postseason this year poses a lot of ques­tions, few of them en­cour­ag­ing.

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