Stephen Tsai: As glum as it looks now, this might be as good as it gets for UH

Hawaii coach Timmy Chang talks with quarterback Brayden Schager during the first half of the team's game against Oregon on Sept. 16 in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

HONOLULU — In the series finale of “The Office, ” Ed Helms’ character, Andy Bernard, lamented : “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

It might be difficult to view these times as the best. In college football’s musical chairs, Hawaii — with a condemned stadium that may never be replaced and a less-than-ideal placeholder on campus — might be left without a seat in a few years. Other athletic programs and their athletes are getting richer while UH is treading in quicksand.


But three years from now, maybe five, Hawaii sports fans can reminisce about good ol’ 2023. Here are future fond memories :

1. The Mountain West In 1998, UH was among eight Western Athletic Conference schools abandoned when eight others broke away to form the Mountain West. The football Rainbow Warriors were hurt, angry, contemplated a lawsuit, got even — 12-0 regular season in 2007 — but always hoped to join the Mountain West.

The invitation came in 2012 with pricey conditions : UH had to pay travel subsidies, would not share in national TV revenue (though UH could keep its pay-per-view revenue ), and only the football program would be admitted. At least through June 30, 2025, the league’s membership will remain intact. There could be future defections. Once a cheater, always a cheater, as the saying goes. But in 2023, despite the heavy tip to the bouncer, the Warriors are in the club.

2. Ching Complex Hawaii football fans are resilient. They stand graciously, nine in unison, when a middle-seat fan wants to go to the concession stand. Small-kid training of holding their breath through the Pali and Likelike tunnels prepared them for using the portable lua. And the sunlight is just as bad in west-bound traffic. But for all the complexities of the Ching Complex, big-name opponents remain on the schedule — Stanford this year, Oregon and UCLA next year — and they’re sorta-sorta OK with using Les Murakami Stadium’s concourse as part of the locker room. Expanded conferences and playoffs might make it difficult to fill schedules in the future, but for now, Hawaii remains an attractive opponent.

3. Transfer portal You’re a restaurant owner who teaches the manager how to order ingredients, organize deliveries, hire cooks and wait staff, and handle the books. After mastering the job, the manager decides to leave for a restaurant across the street. That’s the NCAA’s transfer portal.

A few years ago, the incentive to transfer increased when players were allowed a one-time waiver to move without having to redshirt for the first year at the new school. In the past, teams were limited to offering scholarships to 25 new players each year.

But if 23 players graduated and another seven transferred, that left schools with an unbalanced trade. But now the NCAA allows schools to replace players who transfer. All those starters the Warriors lost two years ago ? They were all replaced. Eleven of the Warriors’ projected starters began their careers at other NCAA schools. The rules might tighten, but for now, the Warriors are thriving in a buyers’ market.

4. Hawaii Bowl In the first 25 seasons of an all-Division I schedule, the Rainbow Warriors had 13 winning regular seasons but appeared in only three bowls. Most confounding was the 2001 season, when a 9-3 season, punctuated with a 72-45 rout of previously unbeaten BYU, did not lead to a postseason game. UH, the WAC and ESPN collaborated to create the Hawaii Bowl. The wink-wink agreement was the Warriors would qualify with a.500 or better record.

They even received invitations with 6-7 records in 2016 and 2021. The Aloha Bowl and Oahu Bowl are long gone, but the Hawaii Bowl endures. In time, Hawaii fans will appreciate a bowl that was designed with the Warriors in mind.

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