By Stephen Tsai
July 21, 2022
Updated 11:47 pm
Las vegas >> College football’s recent and future changes will not affect the University of Hawaii football team’s security with the Mountain West Conference.
During the league’s media day on Wednesday, commissioner Craig Thompson emphasized the Rainbow Warriors’ value to the Mountain West — a relationship strengthened with the state’s recently approved measure to finance the construction of a new stadium in Halawa.
“There’s not going to be a stadium tomorrow,” Thompson said, “but there is a commitment and investment.”
In December 2020, UH had to find a new home field after Aloha Stadium was condemned for spectator-attended events because of structural and safety concerns. In the interim, the Warriors’ home football games are on campus at the Ching complex. Because of funding and supply-chain problems, Ching will be limited to 9,000 seats for the second season in a row. But Thompson said concerns were alleviated after Gov. David Ige approved $400 million toward the construction of a new stadium on Aloha Stadium’s current site.
Without the appropriation, Thompson said, “it could have developed into (an issue). I don’t think now that it will because (playing at Ching is) temporary. But it looked as though this thing is dragging on and (UH would be indefinitely) playing in a 9,000-seat practice facility.”
UH athletic director David Matlin said: “getting the funding was big for the league and our fellow (athletic directors). It makes it a lot easier and provides more confidences where we’re heading as a program. … Now it’s a matter of getting the job done expeditiously.”
Thompson said the league is content with UH as the conference’s lone football-only member. Most of UH’s other sports compete in the Big West.
“Football works,” Thompson said. “Football is unique, different. It is the catalyst to drive the revenue. I don’t think we’ve had any interest in sending volleyball teams and basketball teams to Hawaii, and vice versa.”
Mountain West leaders also have been monitoring the changing landscape as teams switch conferences in search of greater television revenue. Last year, Texas and Oklahoma announced they were moving from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference. Last month, UCLA and USC decided to join the Big Ten. Since 2001, 49 schools have changed conferences. By 2024, that number will grow to 67, Thompson said.
Thompson said the financial gap between the power-five conferences and group of five has widened. For instance, the Mountain West split $65 million in revenue among league members last year. In contrast, Minnesota of the Big Ten has a chance to earn $90 million annually as part of a new television deal.
Thompson said he is unsure what happens with the Pac-12 after the departures of USC and UCLA drop membership to 10 schools. On finding replacements of the same caliber, Thompson said, “no offense to anybody, there’s not anybody.”
Thompson said the Mountain West also might consider staying put if, say, two schools leave, dropping membership to 10 schools. “If we lost two institutions hypothetically, we’d have to look long and hard at just staying at 10,” Thompson said.
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