Conference carousel will hurt Hawaii

June 14, 2010, 9:05 AM HST · Updated June 14, 9:05 AM
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By Fred Guzman

MauiNow.com

The athletic fortunes of the University of Hawaii resemble a cork in the ocean. UH is floating but has absolutely no control of anything else.

Two quick examples: Hawaii’s season-opening football game against Southern California is in serious jeopardy as a reuslt of the recent sanctions handed down by the NCAA.

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If USC is unable to play at Aloha Stadium on Sept. 2, it will cost Hawaii’s cash-strapped athletic department – already facing a projected $2.2 million deficit – easily in excess of $1 million.

Of even more significant long-term concern is the future and viability of the WAC as we know it. While the commentators continue to focus on the big-time programs that are — or soon will be — shifting conference affiliations, the WAC is at the mercy of others.

Boise State, the WAC’s flagship football program, is leaving for the Mountain West, which may – in turn – find itself cannibalized if the Big 12 has to do some cherry-picking of its own in order to stay alive.

So what happens if the Big 12 goes after Utah, BYU and/or TCU? And what if the Mountain West then goes after Fresno State and Nevada as replacements?

That could leave the WAC in the position of having to fill out its ranks with the likes of Montana, Portland State, Weber State and UC Davis. At the risk of sounding snobbish, hardly the type of teams likely to attract throngs of football fans to Aloha Stadium.

POWER SURGE: If you got caught up in the feats of the Rainbow Wahine softball team, you are probably well aware that the long ball played a huge role in their success. You probably also know that they shattered the previous national record for home runs in a single season, going deep 158 times.

Eight Hawaii players, led by freshman Kelly Majam’s national-best 30, finished with double-digit homers. Melissa Gonzalez hit 25. Jessica Iwata and Amanda Taualii had 18 apiece, while Jenna Rodriguez added 17. In fact, all of UH’s runs in the College World Series came on homers.

But UH was not alone in increasing its power numbers. In fact, the dramatic increase in home runs has NCAA officials investigating whether composite-barreled bats — credited with the increase in big flies and run production in recent years — are good for the sport.

During this recent World Series, for example, there were 35 home runs hit in 15 games. There were 9.4 runs scored per game. That’s a dramatic departure from recent times when shutouts at the World Series were the rule rather than the exception.

UH coach Bob Coolen acknowledges that composite bats, with their larger barrels and expanded sweet spots, are the reason for the rise in home runs. But Coolen, a former college pitcher, believes the increase in homers is good for the sport.

Others, however, disagree, which is why the NCAA is taking a long and hard look at composite bats and/or seeking to expand the dimensions of softball stadiums across the country.

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