UH-SMU Hawaii Bowl Not Likely

Now that we’re past the halfway point of the UH football season, it appears inevitable that the Warriors will accomplish one of their season goals – to become bowl eligible. That means a date on Christmas Eve in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

I’m frequently asked if UH wins nine or 10 games, could they go to a better bowl? First, outside of a perfect season and an invite to a BCS bowl, Hawaii will not be invited to a bowl game on the continent. Hawaii’s travel numbers for the 1992 Holiday Bowl guarantee that. Second, outside of a BCS game, there is no better bowl game for Hawaii. The Christmas Eve time slot assures an excellent audience. Hawaii fans can go to the game, and the school won’t lose money playing in it. And the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl folks show the UH party a great time. Ask any of the bowl participants from the Mainland and they’ll give the bowl experience rave reviews.

* Which brings us to Hawaii’s dream opponent. Conference USA gets to put a team in Hawaii this year, and a glance at SMU’s record (4-3 as we go to print; they’ll have played Houston by the time you read this) and remaining schedule make it likely that the Mustangs will achieve bowl eligibility. So Hawaii-SMU, Mac vs. June, right? A slam-dunk, you say.

Not so fast. A couple of things you need to know that make that match-up improbable. A number of Conference USA folks were put off by Coach June Jones’ lobbying for the bowl last year, publicly stating that SMU was going, even before invitations were handed out. There is sentiment that another team should get the chance to visit paradise this year.

The biggest obstacle is that the Armed Forces Bowl, normally played at TCU, is being moved to SMU’s Ford Stadium because of renovations in Fort Worth. And ESPN Regional owns both bowl games. Imagine the pressure to have SMU host a bowl for the first time ever. It would assure a near sellout. And while Hawaii-SMU would certainly draw 45,000 plus, here UH alone will still ensure a good crowd. So by keeping UH and SMU at their respective homes, ESPN guarantees two excellent crowds. It is not impossible that circumstances could allow SMU to come to Hawaii, but right now it is certainly unlikely.

* The NFL’s new and tough stance on dangerous hits is proving to be a lightning rod for sharp opinion. The addition of suspensions to large fines is being heralded in some quarters and vilified in others.

The NFL is hard to believe in some ways. It is campaigning for player safety, yet trying to increase the schedule from 16 to 18 games.

But our increasing knowledge of the brain damage that results from repeated head trauma makes it impossible to do nothing. While the physical and violent nature of the game has always been at its core, one need only think of the fate of the great Steeler center Mike Webster, called by Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw “the most dedicated and committed you ever saw or will ever see, to being the best that he could be,” diagnosed with major frontal lobe damage directly resulting from multiple concussions suffered during his NFL career.

After his career, Webster was unemployed, debt-ridden and occasionally homeless, wandering the streets in a near stupor before dying of a heart attack at age 50. Certainly the NFL has a right to prevent helmets being used as a weapon rather than for protection, and players and fans are going to have to live through an adjustment period while the culture is changed.

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