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Stands still empty, UH athletics could see damage to more than just the bottom line

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 5:34 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 28, 2021 at 5:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii football team hosts the nationally-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs this Saturday in Manoa for its homecoming game.

However, the only ones that’ll be in the ‘Bows house are the teams and the marching band as the program prepares for its latest nationally-televised matchup of the season.

The recent Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex renovation cost more than $8 million and thus far, the school hasn’t earned a penny from ticket sales.

Hawaii News Now spoke with veteran Honolulu Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon on Tuesday about this latest setback for an athletics program that’s often faced budget issues.

He says empty stands may be doing damage to more than just the bottom line.

Reardon fears the lack of fans will impact the program’s recruiting efforts, less profitable sports, and the state’s taxpayers.

“That’s huge, so at some point, there’s gonna have to be some kind of reckoning and balancing of the books,” Reardon said. “But how they do it and where the money comes from is the big question.”

Earlier this week, Gov. David Ige reiterated that he’s not yet ready to allow limited spectators and bringing fans back would be a calculated process.

“How to manage people getting to the facility and exiting at the end, how to avoid those mash ups where people just get released,” Ige said, in an interview with the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

“It certainly is an opportunity for many to get infected if somebody is infected in that audience.”

The players, meanwhile, are keeping this year in perspective. But it does remains puzzling to play a road game at an open stadium one week only to come home to an empty venue the next.

They say they could use support against their longtime friends from Fresno, who are now nationally ranked.

“Going on the road and having those fans at our backs talking the whole time, it kind of does put a toll and then we host people and they just don’t have nothing,” said Rainbow Warriors defensive back Cam Lockridge. “It’s basically we just gotta play off our own energy, just gotta bring energy from the locker room to the field.”

Over a 40-year-career covering Rainbow Warriors football, Reardon has experienced many chapters of the UH-Fresno St. rivalry. Regardless if the ‘Bows win or lose, he said, Saturday’s showdown already has its own place in history.

“I don’t know if UH has the team that could pull off an upset against a ranked team right now, but they’d have a better chance I think if there were some fans in the stands,” Reardon said.

Saturday’s kickoff from Manoa is set for 5 p.m. Hawaii time.

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