Don’t Even Mention vonAppen

This is not 1998 for UH football. Anthony Consillio photo

I keep hearing Hawaii fans comparing this winless 2013 Rainbow Warrior football season to the infamous 0-12 season of 1998. Forgive me if I play around with the wording of a famous political quote, but “I knew 1998, and this is no 1998.”

Fifteen years ago, in Fred vonAppen’s disastrous final season, the ‘Bows were outscored an average of 33-13; were shutout twice (including an embarrassing 20-0 loss to Arkansas State); and only finished within single digits of their opponents one time (a 30-21 loss to Utah in the second game of the season). I recall that the team was so painful to watch that I checked out the Saturday night movie listings before I went to home games, hoping I could catch a more entertaining flick if I left at halftime.

This year’s Norm Chow squad is frustrating (and, yes, at times also painful to watch), but they have shown improvement along the way. They’ve been outscored by an average of 35-23 (which isn’t totally unrespectable); played well in the first half in losses against USC and Oregon State before succumbing in the second half; and they rallied late in games against Fresno State and UNLV only to fall short at the end.

Now, before you accuse me of watching Hawaii football through rose-colored glasses, hold on.

Yes, I’ve seen the many mistakes, along with the empty seats at Aloha Stadium that predictably go with a team that is 0-6.

On paper and on the field, they aren’t very good. I’m just saying that I’ve seen improvement this year, and I’m not ready to tell you that 2013 is going to end like 1998 did – with a head coach getting a pink slip.

This weekend’s home game with Colorado State might be the best chance yet of picking up a W. We’ll see. * It was bittersweet to hear the news that Hawaii Pacific University athletic director Darren Vorderbruegge is stepping down from that position to put all of his time and energy into his HPU head basketball coaching job. “Vord” has been a great friend of mine at the many athletic director meetings we’ve had in the PacWest over the years. In the several seasons that he held both jobs at HPU, he led the Sea Warriors’ athletic program to the PacWest Commissioners Cup on two occasions, and just recently I presented him with the conference’s Community Engagement Award.

I will miss his common-sense approach to the complex issues that often confront an athletic conference, as well as his good old-fashioned humor. Vord has a way of spinning a yarn that even Will Rogers would be proud of, and he can make a point to an adversary on a divisive issue while making his opponent feel like he’s doing them a favor. Washington politicians could learn a thing or two from Vord. I know his Sea Warriors men’s basketball team will appreciate 100 percent of his attention this season, and I wish them only the best. * Finally, I see that much is being talked and written about the disparity in local high school football this year. Nobody likes forfeits, nobody likes scores of 67-0 and nobody wants to see what has happened too often this season in the ILH and OIA White (and elsewhere) to continue. Some good ideas have been tossed around and, hopefully, when the state’s athletic directors get together at the end of the academic year, they can put aside past old hurts and old competitiveness and decide on an improved format that is good for everyone, including the student-athletes and the fans.

We don’t need a high school football shutdown.