In advance of Saturday’s football game against Oregon State at Aloha Stadium, Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich has put aside his anger and annoyance with last year’s recruiting shenanigans.
In April 2018, Oregon State’s football office sent what was interpreted by UH as recruiting material to two Rainbow Warriors. On May 4, 2018, Rolovich tweeted : “My apologies for our players not being able to attend your Spring game. Ours was the same day, bad timing. Quick question, in the 203 years of coaching, none of you realized you couldn’t actively recruit another school’s playersSent to campus#leakydam #sloppybeavers.”
The tweet included pictures of the OSU brochures. The tweet received national attention, from ESPN to USA Today.
OSU cited a “clerical error, ” and self-reported the incident. The NCAA ruled OSU committed a “secondary violation.”
“I was mad, ” Rolovich said. “I think everybody would be mad if they were receiving letters from another school.”
But on Monday, Rolovich deemed the incident to be “old, ” and has moved on from it.
“I don’t want it to emotionally hijack us, especially me, ” Rolovich said of the meeting against the Pac-12 school. “We gotta go play our best game.”
There is familiarity between the teams. Jake Cookus was retained as UH’s special teams coordinator in 2016, Rolovich’s first as head coach, only to depart two months later to join OSU’s staff for family-related reasons. Cookus is now the Beavers’ special teams coordinator.
Following the 2017 season, defensive coordinator Legi Suiaunoa and receivers coach Kefense Hynson resigned from the UH coaching staff to join the Beavers. Suiaunoa now coaches the defensive line, and Hynson is in charge of the receivers.
Former UH linebacker Kendrick Van Ackeren is an OSU graduate assistant.
“They know a little bit about us, we know a little bit about them, ” said Rolovich, noting that Suiaunoa and Hynson are “good football coaches. They’re smart. You’ve seen the improvement they’ve made on that team in one year.”
Offensive lineman Brandon Kipper, who was at UH as a true freshman in 2017, is the Beavers’ starting right tackle. Gus Lavaka, who initially signed with UH in 2012 but could not gain admission after serving a two-year church mission, is OSU’s starting left guard.
UH offensive line coach Mark Weber and linebackers coach Mark Banker coached at Oregon State. Weber was there for four seasons through 1990, before OSU began extensive—and expensive—facility upgrades.
“We had a wooden stadium, ” Weber recalled, “wooden bleachers with weeds growing up through it. Our offices were in Gill Coliseum. Now they’ve got a beautiful end-zone facility and indoor facility and a lot of nice things.”
Jerry Pettibone, who was OSU’s head coach for seven years in the 1990s, lobbied for improved facilities. In the spring of 1998, Banker’s second year as an OSU assistant coach, the Valley Football Center opened. The facility featured a football-only locker room, equipment room, training room and meeting rooms.
Banker spent the next few years with the San Diego Chargers and Stanford Cardinal. When he returned to OSU in 2003, as defensive coordinator, projects were underway for two outdoor fields with artificial surfaces and an indoor practice field.
Banker also became a point recruiter in Hawaii, signing Jeremy Perry, Tavita Thompson, Al Afalava, Brandon Hardin, Castro Masaniai, Feti ‘Unga and Walker Vave.
But now in his second stint at UH, Banker is competing against the Beavers on the recruiting trail. “You’re competing against the whole country now, ” Banker said of the battle for Hawaii recruits.
In a twist, Banker was the point recruiter for UH offensive lineman Bubba Wa‘a of Crescent Valley High. Crescent is a 10-minute drive from OSU’s Corvallis campus. Banker still owns a condo in Corvallis.
“I’ve known Bubba since he was 8 years old, ” Banker said of Perry’s nephew.