College football: UH already thinking about UMass

The University of Hawaii’s football training camp is still a month away and, already, the game with Massachusetts is looming large on a couple of fronts.

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The University of Hawaii’s football training camp is still a month away and, already, the game with Massachusetts is looming large on a couple of fronts.

For the Rainbow Warriors, it is the Aug. 26 season opener — and a lot more.

In a season in which UH plays just 12 regular-season games, it is viewed as a tipping-point game that could well decide whether the Rainbow Warriors get the requisite seven victories needed for a winning season and bowl game qualification — or, on the flip side, go a record seventh consecutive season without a winning record.

Last season’s shootout 46-40 victory over the Minutemen at Aloha Stadium kept UH in the running for a bowl berth. And, now, the scene shifts to UMass’ McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst.

And, then, there is the financial bottom line.

UH’s TV rights contract guarantees the re-branded Spectrum Sports (formerly known as Oceanic Time Warner’s OC Sports) the exclusivity of at least seven games per season for its pay-per-view package. For that UH receives a guaranteed payment that, this season, is contracted to rise to $2.44 million or nearly $50,000 above 2016.

Without the required seven games, which either leaves Spectrum short or requires the cable operator to purchase access from a rights holder to fill out the lineup out of its own pocket, passing on costs to UH, the athletic department would face the prospects of a smaller check.

Hawaiian Telcom said it also expects to offer a pay-per-view package for a sixth consecutive year.

The combination of the attractiveness of UH after a 7-7 finish and bowl victory and a 12-game regular-season schedule instead of 13 has put a premium on available inventory. Currently, Spectrum has six games available to it: Western Carolina, Colorado State, San Jose State, Nevada-Las Vegas, Fresno State and Utah State.

Five other games have been announced as belonging to either the Mountain West Conference or UH opponent TV partners: UCLA (Pac-12 Network), Wyoming (ESPN), Nevada (CBS Sports), San Diego State (ESPN) and Brigham Young (CBS).

Which makes UMass the wild card of sorts. That’s because it is a home game for the Minutemen, who are an independent after leaving the Mid-American Conference after the 2014 season, and are so far without a TV deal. They are attempting to peddle a not-very-attractive home schedule. The UH game, coming in week zero, when there are few other games available to TV networks, figures to be the most desirable of the lot.

A UMass spokeswoman said the school is still talking to possible buyers.

A Spectrum Sports spokesman said under the new ownership the cable operator plans some new wrinkles — “new name, new logo, new on-air graphics package” — but no change in on-camera personnel or format.

Meanwhile, after more than a year, UH, Spectrum and the MWC still are wrestling with the issue of live streaming of Rainbow Warrior road games. In seasons prior to 2016 the games had been available on the continent to fans, prospective recruits and players’ families. But with people in Hawaii apparently increasingly able to avoid so-called “geo-blocking” and access the games, there was no streaming last year.

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Whether that will change in time for the opener remains to be seen with a spokesman saying Wednesday the situation is “not resolved yet.”

One more example, perhaps, of how the UMass game will have something to say about the season.

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