'Eaters' island alliance

December 13, 2010|By Barry Faulkner,
  • UC Irvine guard Mike Wilder (23) drives around Hawaii defender Leroy Lutu last season. The Warriors will join the Big West Conference for the 2012-13 season.
UC Irvine guard Mike Wilder (23) drives around Hawaii… (MARK DUSTIN, Daily…)

The addition of the University of Hawaii to the Big West Conference, announced Friday and scheduled to begin for the 2012-13 athletic year, should bring a little marquee value to the previously all-California alliance.

It will also add some logistical challenges that have already drawn concern from Anteaters coaches.

In terms of competitive equity, the Warriors (men's teams) and Rainbow Wahine (women's teams) don't send shivers down the spines of most coaches at UCI, though Anteaters' women's volleyball coach Paula Weishoff's job is now monumentally more difficult.

Hawaii, competing now in the Western Athletic Conference, will instantly become the conference's most rabid fan base, with impressive home attendance in many sports bringing the biggest home-site advantage for Big West visitors.

The first thing most UCI coaches thought about when hearing the news had to be travel. Nearly 2,600 miles separate UCI from the Honolulu campus, and depending on how sports handle the scheduling, a two-game weekend road trip could be considered anything but paradise. There is also a time-zone issue, with California being either two or three hours ahead, depending on the time of year.


The increased cost of travel figures to be diluted, if not mitigated totally, by subsidies provided by Hawaii to other Big West schools. But those details have yet to be worked out, a conference official said Monday.

UCI and Hawaii currently share Mountain Pacific Sports Federation membership in men's volleyball, which handles the two-match conference regular season by combining both contests at one school in alternating seasons. So, UCI goes to Hawaii for matches on back-to-back nights one year, while the next season, the two matches are held in Irvine.

This could continue in some sports in which teams play two conference games against each opponent. But men's and women's basketball might be asked to add a California conference rival to a two-game weekend trip that includes Hawaii. This has most often the plight of WAC schools in those sports in recent years.

For instance, Louisiana Tech plays a WAC men's basketball game at Hawaii on Feb. 24, then swings into California to visit San Jose State on Feb. 26.

It is this potentially taxing itinerary that coaches would view as more than a mild disruption.

And those who visit Hawaii for, say a weekend baseball series, often need more than 24 hours upon their return before getting their competitive legs under them.

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