Hawaii Sports

Hawaii Bowl canceled by ESPN due to pandemic

The Associated Press

The Hawaii and Bahamas bowls were canceled by ESPN Events on Friday because of the pandemic and related travel restrictions.

The games are typically played in December and are two of 17 owned and operated by ESPN. The cancellation brings the total number of postseason major college football games still tentatively on for this season down to 39.

“We are disappointed that we aren’t able to stage events at these premier destinations this year,” said Pete Derzis, ESPN senior vice president of college sports programming and ESPN Events. “We are committed to bringing both games back in 2021, and we thank our conference partners, sponsors and the local communities for their ongoing support and understanding.”

The California Bay Area-based RedBox Bowl has previously announced it would not be played this season.

College basketball tournaments traditionally held in Hawaii and the Bahamas have also been canceled for this season.

The Bahamas Bowl matchup this year was set to be Conference USA vs Mid-American Conference teams. The Hawaii Bowl was set to host a team from the Mountain West and a C-USA team.

Hawaii Sports

Matlin: Testing, not money, was biggest factor in deciding to play football in fall

The Maui News

The Mountain West will test its football players, coaches, trainers and other field staff three times a week for COVID-19, the conference said Friday as it prepares for an Oct. 24 start to the season.

A day after announcing that the conference’s Board of Directors voted to resume football competition following the Aug. 10 indefinite postponement of fall sports, the Mountain West went into more detail about its decision.

The conference has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to implement testing protocols across all member institutions. University of Hawaii athletic director David Matlin, whose school is a football-only member of the Mountain West, said the availability of rapid testing — not finances — was the deciding factor for fall football.

“In the end, health and safety and doing this in a safe manner was the only litmus test to be able to move forward,” he said during a press conference held over Zoom on Friday. “Obviously there are economic realities, but we were prepared to, if we weren’t going to play … we were looking at budget scenarios with that. So obviously that’s a positive outcome from this decision, but it is not a driver.”

While Commissioner Craig Thompson told The Associated Press last week that the conference would not move forward on a fall football season without its schools having the ability to test daily, it appears the conference decided against joining the Big Ten and Pac-12 in testing their athletes every day.

“Obviously we want to keep our guys safe, that’s first and foremost, but we’re excited about the opportunity to move forward and get the opportunity to compete, and compete for a Mountain West championship,” first-year UH head coach Todd Graham said in the Zoom press conference.

During a 10-5 campaign last year, the Rainbow Warriors made their first appearance in the MW championship game before capping the season with a 38-34 victory over BYU in the Hawaii Bowl.

With the start of this season now just a month away, Graham is confident his team will be ready.

“No doubt in my mind it is enough time to be able to get ready and do it because it’s pretty much how we do it every year,” he said. “There are some extenuating circumstances, this is not just any other year, but no doubt I think it’s enough time.”

As far as allowing fans in Aloha Stadium, Matlin was noncommittal.

“We have our first step now with the Mountain West, our second step is working for the travel for people going in and out (of the state). The next step after that will be looking at fans in attendance, if they can be,” he said. “We’ll have anywhere from no fans to, I mean, obviously I don’t think we will be at full capacity. So, we just have to do it one step at a time, and that’s really step three to me.”

Also on Friday, the Mid-American Conference, the first major college football league to postpone its season, became the final one to jump back in, making it 10 out of 10 conferences that will play in the fall. The MAC plans to play a six-game schedule.

* The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Hawaii Sports

Winston, Mariota hope backup stints revive their careers

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota should be entering the primes of their careers right now.

The top two picks in the 2015 draft were expected to be the faces of the franchise in Tampa Bay and Tennessee, and the star quarterbacks.

Instead they are entering their sixth seasons in the NFL as backups in New Orleans and Las Vegas with many questioning whether they can ever get back on the track they were expected to take when drafted.

“Can they get back? Of course,” said former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. “Will they get back is all about, to be honest with you, getting lucky. They have to get on the field. … Their stories aren’t written yet. But they need to continue to stay impatiently patient, meaning they have to keep on their grind and know or hope, fingers crossed, that that opportunity will present itself. And when it does, strike.”

Being cast aside by their original team is not usual for quarterbacks taken so high in the draft. Of the 27 QBs drafted in the top two before Winston and Mariota since the 1970 merger, 17 began their sixth season in the NFL on the same franchise they had been on for the entire careers, including John Elway and Eli Manning, who were traded during their drafts.

Four of those quarterbacks — Rick Norton, Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch and JaMarcus Russell — never played again after their fifth seasons.

Winston and Mariota join six others that changed teams, along with players like David Carr, Rick Mirer and Robert Griffin III, who never became consistent starters in their new homes, and others such as Jeff George and Sam Bradford that bounced around various spots.

The one success story in that group is Jim Plunkett, the No. 1 overall pick by New England in 1971, who revived his career with the Raiders.

Winston and Mariota now want to follow that path.

Winston is trying to resurrect his career in New Orleans, where he can learn from one of the game’s most respected offensive coaches in Sean Payton. And see firsthand how a proven passer like Drew Brees approaches everything from practice to how he dissects certain coverages.

His tenure in Tampa was up and down, with a three-game suspension in 2018 for allegedly making unwanted sexual advances on an Uber driver and his 30 interceptions last season the low points.

But Winston also threw 33 TD passes and led the league with 5,109 yards passing last season, a sign that talent isn’t the issue when it comes to his career.

“You have to be a student of the game,” he said earlier this offseason. “So, now I actually get a chance to dive into that more and I actually have a (presumptive) Hall of Fame quarterback that I’m learning from as opposed to trying to learn by myself or use Google.”

Mariota lost his starting job last year in Tennessee to a former, discarded first-round pick in Ryan Tannehill. While Winston’s problems were being too careless, Mariota might have been too careful.

He was sacked on a league-worst 11 percent of his dropbacks the past two seasons as he sometimes appeared too hesitant to get rid of the ball.

Now he gets to play behind a quarterback who is one of the fastest to throw in Derek Carr, and learn from an accomplished offensive coach like Jon Gruden.

“He’s interesting,” Gruden said last week. “He took off a couple times today and it really fired me up. He’s been hurt, but looks like the ankle really turned a corner. He’s a dazzling playmaker with his feet and that’s the key to his game. I saw glimpses of that today, it’s exciting.”

Hawaii Sports

Wong caps ninth-inning rally, lifts Cardinals to victory over Reds

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Kolten Wong hit an RBI single and the St. Louis Cardinals returned to Busch Stadium with a rousing rally, scoring three runs in the ninth inning to beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 Thursday night.

St. Louis played its first home game since July 26. The Cardinals were idle for 17 days after 10 players tested positive for COVID-19.

Wong tossed high-fives in the general direction of his delirious teammates while jumping up and down. Yet he did not come into contact with anyone.

Social distancing at its finest.

“It’s weird,” the former University of Hawaii star from Hilo said.

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said the last at-bat win was still sweet even without the normal crazy celebration.

“A different kind of walkoff, but we’ll take it,” Shildt said. “It was fun. The guys still enjoyed it. It still tasted good. It was unique, but super fun still.”

Yadier Molina drove in three runs, including an RBI single in the ninth. The nine-time All-Star catcher made his first appearance since being sidelined by COVID-19 earlier this month.

“He’s just a pro’s pro,” St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright said. “He’s not a future Hall of Famer for nothing.”

A hit batter and a balk helped put the Cardinals in position in the ninth, and Wong hit a one-out, bases-loaded fly over the head of center fielder Travis Jankowski to win it.

St. Louis put the first four runners on in the ninth against closer Raisel Iglesias (1-2). Dexter Fowler loaded the bases with a single and Molina hit a grounder off the glove of Iglesias, cutting the deficit to 4-3.

Iglesias followed with a run-scoring balk to tie it and set up Wong.

Seth Elledge (1-0) picked up his first major league win with a scoreless ninth inning.

Cincinnati starter Sonny Gray struck out six over six innings to bring his NL-leading total to 51. He walked four.

“The game just sped up on me,” Gray said. “I didn’t really have good stuff.”

Freddy Galvis homered off Wainwright, who gave up four runs, two of them earned, on six hits in seven innings. The 38-year-old retired the last 15 batters he faced after allowing a run-scoring double to Mike Moustakas in the third that pushed the lead to 4-2.

The Reds pushed across a pair of unearned runs in the first on errors by third baseman Brad Miller and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Hawaii Sports

Dolphins’ Tagovailoa is a playful, willing backup — for now


AP Sports Writer

MIAMI — Tua Tagovailoa was easy to identify Thursday even though he wore teammate Ryan Fitzpatrick’s jersey and a mask to his first media session of training camp.

The mask was protective, and in a way the jersey was, too.

Tagovailoa is happy to keep a low profile befitting his rookie status, even though he’s widely hailed as the Miami Dolphins’ future franchise quarterback.

A former star at Alabama, Tagovailoa knows how to deal with the pressure of great expectations.

“I think the best way to handle it is really not pay attention to it,” he said.

But Tagovailoa will be difficult to overlook because he’s full of potential and personality. The latter was evident when he stepped in front of a media Zoom camera wearing Fitzpatrick’s No. 14, rather than his own No. 1.

“I thought I could break ice making you guys laugh,” Tagovailoa said with a grin.

The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick is the team’s 2019 most valuable player and the likely starter in the season opener at New England a month from Thursday, because the Dolphins have good reason to transition carefully to Tagovailoa.

There are lingering questions about the career-threatening hip injury that ended his Alabama career in November, and Tagovailoa himself wonders how well he’ll hold up when tackling starts. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic slowed the development of all rookies by wiping out NFL offseason programs.

“Tua is going to develop quickly or slowly, depending upon how much he grasps the offense, how quickly he comes along and how he develops,” new Miami offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. “A lot of that’s based on health. We’ll treat him just like we treat everybody else, and we’ll try to put him in a position to be successful when the time comes.”

Tagovailoa has repeatedly said his focus is on learning the Dolphins’ playbook and building relationships, not on how long he’s Fitzpatrick’s understudy.

“They’re going to put the team in the best position possible,” Tagovailoa said. “If that’s me supporting someone, that’s what it’s going to be.”

As to whether his surgically repaired hip will hold up to contact, Tagovailoa conceded doubts will be there until he starts to play — and maybe longer.

“To answer that question honestly, you just never know until it actually happens,” he said. “I won’t know the feeling until I do get tackled. It’s that trial-and-error thing. You’ve got to go out and do it to know whether it does hurt or it doesn’t.

“As far as how I feel right now, everything is going well.”

That’s what the Dolphins want to hear. They took Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall draft pick, the highest they’ve used on a quarterback since selecting future Pro Football Hall of Famer Bob Griese in 1967.

So Tagovailoa’s not likely to remain No. 2 to Fitzpatrick for too long. In the meantime, the rookie and veteran have bonded, with Fitzpatrick — a father of seven — embracing the role of mentor to his eventual replacement.

“I got to meet his family two days ago,” Tagovailoa said. “It was pretty funny. We were on FaceTime. Everyone is scattered around the house, and he introduces me to his kids and then his wife. He’s like, ‘This is everyone, this is my family.’ Lo and behold, he forgets two of them.”

Fitzpatrick might lose track of his own kids, but there’s no overlooking Tagovailoa, the backup quarterback for now and perhaps the face of the franchise for years to come.

NOTES: The Dolphins will wear a jersey patch this season to commemorate Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, who died in May. The patch will feature Shula’s name and “347” to signify his career victory total, an NFL record.

Hawaii Sports

Maryland QB Josh Jackson opts out, Tagovailoa immediately eligible


The Associated Press

Maryland senior quarterback Josh Jackson has opted out of the upcoming football season, leaving the Terrapins with very little depth and experience at the pivotal position.

Jackson is the most prominent of six Maryland players who have decided not to play in 2020 for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, coach Michael Locksley said during a teleconference Friday.

But Maryland learned later in the day that Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa has been granted immediate eligibility, making the talented sophomore the immediate front-runner to be the starting quarterback.

Jackson played in 10 games last year for Maryland after transferring from Virginia Tech. His backup was Tyrrell Pigrome, who transferred to Western Kentucky during the offseason.

With Jackson out, Locksley is now counting on big things from Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Tua Tagovailoa, who starred at Alabama and was selected fifth overall by Miami in the 2020 NFL draft.

Taulia Tagovailoa has been working out with the Terps since June 1 with the understanding that he might have to sit out the season. Fortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.

“We signed him and brought him in with the expectations that we wouldn’t have him available to play this year,” Locksley said before the NCAA revealed its ruling. “If he’s granted immediate eligibility, that would be icing on the cake for us.”

Tagovailoa — who played some of his high school football at Kapolei High School — completed 9 of 12 passes for 100 yards in five games for the Crimson Tide.

Lance Legendre is the only other Maryland quarterback on scholarship. He played in three games last season, completing one of three passes in a mopup role. There are also two walkons, Eric Najarian and David Foust.

Hawaii Sports

Dolphins QB Tagovailoa gets OK to practice without restrictions


The Associated Press

MIAMI — Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa passed his physical when he reported to Miami Dolphins training camp and will practice without restrictions as he begins his bid to overtake veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job.

The all-clear will allow Tagovailoa to practice for the first time since a career-threatening hip injury ended the Oahu native’s Alabama career in mid-November.

“He’s through the physical, and when we do get to practice, you’ll see him out there,” coach Brian Flores said Wednesday.

That will be in mid-August, after a couple of weeks of strength and conditioning workouts and walkthroughs. The usual training camp regimen has been altered because of the coronavirus pandemic, which also forced the cancellation of offseason drills throughout the NFL.

As a result, the Dolphins have had little chance to groom Tagovailoa. The No. 5 pick in the April draft is hailed as a potential franchise quarterback, but Flores stressed the need for patience.

“I know there are a lot of people that want to talk about Tua, and I understand it,” Flores said. “But at the same time, he’s a young player and this is his first NFL training camp. I think he’s got to take it one day at a time and not think about what’s realistic for the season.”

Tagovailoa spent the offseason in Alabama rehabbing and participating in the Dolphins’ virtual meetings. He’s the centerpiece in a rebuilding project under second-year coach Flores that becomes even more challenging as the Dolphins, 5-11 last year, try to navigate the pandemic.

No players or coaches have opted out for 2020, Flores said. But he’s well aware the virus could quickly sink the season, and the dangers were underscored by the recent outbreak that forced the Miami Marlins to call off at least a week of games.

“One person can bring in the virus, and it can spread like wildfire,” Flores said. “So each one of us has a responsibility. If you enter the facility, you have a responsibility to the 150, 180 or 200 other people in the facility. We need to be smart and make good decisions. I think our guys understand that.

“Look, you can be smart and make all good decisions and it still might not work out, because that’s just kind of how this is. But I think we’d all have peace of mind knowing that we’ve done everything possible that we can do individually.”

Hawaii Sports

Wie West going to next year’s Solheim Cup as assistant captain


The Associated Press

Already a new mom, Michelle Wie West now has another new job. She was appointed Thursday to be one of Pat Hurst’s assistant captains for the Solheim Cup next year in Ohio.

“Just ecstatic,” Wie West said.

She married Golden State Warriors executive Jonnie West nearly a year ago. They had their first child, a daughter named Makenna, last month.

The 30-year-old from Honolulu is young for this kind of role in golf, although hardly anything Wie West has done in her career would be classified as the norm.

A USGA champion at age 13 and a U.S. Women’s Open winner at Pinehurst No. 2 a decade later, Wie West has been among the biggest stars in women’s golf from competing on the PGA Tour as a teenager and turning pro before her 16th birthday. The last of her five LPGA Tour victories was more than two years ago, and she hasn’t played much since because of numerous injuries.

Asked about playing at Inverness Club for the Sept. 4-6 matches next year, Wie West said that would depend on Hurst and how much Wie West was even playing. Her last appearance was at the Women’s PGA at Hazeltine a year ago.

“I definitely want to compete again,” Wie West said. “That’s so far down the road. It’s not predictable at all. But I told Pat that I’m totally leaving it up to her. It’s her decision. And if she wants me to play, I’ll play. If she doesn’t want me to play and only be an assistant, I’m fine either way.”

She says she has been taking her daughter to the range to hit a few balls and recently played 18 holes. Wie West has said she wants to play again so her daughter can see her as an athlete.

Juli Inkster was U.S. captain the last three times, and her bid for a third straight victory ended at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2019 when Suzann Pettersen — a new mother who agreed to give up her assistant’s role to play — made the winning putt.

Hurst was selected the next captain, and it didn’t take long to hear from Wie West.

“Michelle called me early on and said, ‘If you haven’t picked your assistants, can you please consider me?’ ” Hurst said. “I know what she’s like. I know she’s very patriotic, loves the red, white and blue just like I do, and her intensity is there. All the players love her. They respect her, and what’s what I need.”

Hawaii Sports

Volkanovski defeats Holloway by split decision

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kamaru Usman retained his welterweight title with a smothering victory over short-notice challenger Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 on Sunday.

Alexander Volkanovski retained his featherweight title with a narrow split decision over Oahu resident Max Holloway, and Petr Yan won the vacant UFC bantamweight championship with a fifth-round stoppage victory over José Aldo on Yas Island, the UAE tourist destination turned into a secure bubble by the UFC during the coronavius pandemic.

Former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas avenged her loss to Jéssica Andrade with a split-decision win in their rematch on the UFC’s so-called “Fight Island.” The mixed martial arts promotion will host four shows this month at the arena, with more expected in the upcoming months at its haven from the coronavirus.

Usman (17-1) earned his 16th straight MMA victory and defended his belt for the second time with a cerebral, technical performance against the 35-year-old Masvidal (35-14), who gallantly accepted his first UFC title shot on six days’ notice when Gilbert Burns tested positive for the coronavirus.

“(Masvidal) is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman said. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on six days’ notice. I know a lot was made of him taking the fight on short notice, but all these guys are preparing for one guy, and that’s me at the top of the mountain. I had to make a mental shift. I had a completely different game plan.”

Masvidal was eager for a knockout, and the former backyard brawler came out swinging in an exciting first round. But while Masvidal’s wind faded, Usman coolly took charge with wrestling takedowns, foot stomps and judicious strikes mixed with superior conditioning.

Two judges scored it 50-45 for Usman, and a third had it 49-46.

Some fans might have booed Usman’s strategy, but there were no fans inside the temporary arena. UFC 251 began well before dawn Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi to meet the time demands of the lucrative North American pay-per-view audience, and the sun rose as the card progressed.

Volkanovski (22-1) earned his 19th consecutive MMA victory since 2013 by a razor-thin margin, winning 48-47 on two of the three cards when his leg kicks and takedowns earned the decision over Holloway’s overall striking game.

“It was a tough fight,” Volkanovski said. “He stood there and didn’t really take a backward step. I couldn’t use the kicks as much as I liked. I knew I had to win that last round. It’s tough. He’s a gamer. We’re both hard workers, but I got the job done.”

The Australian champion won his belt last December with a virtuoso technical performance against Holloway (21-6), who had reigned atop the division for the previous three years.

In the rematch, Holloway showed off another level of his superb striking skills while weathering dozens more leg kicks from Volkanovski, who relied largely on that strike to win the first bout. Holloway largely controlled the first two rounds, but Volkanovski increased his output starting in the third round and added a few takedowns to bolster his case with the judges.

Three title belts were on the line on the same card for only the sixth time in UFC history, and Yan (15-1) claimed the first one by persevering for a beating of Aldo (28-7), the former featherweight champion dethroned by Conor McGregor in 2015.

Hawaii Sports

Pac-12 joins Big Ten in eliminating nonconference games

UH was to have played Arizona, UCLA, Oregon


The Associated Press

The Pac-12 has become the second major conference to shift to a conference-only fall schedule amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, a decision that leaves the University of Hawaii football team without an opponent until October.

The announcement came after a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group on Friday, a day after the Big Ten opted to eliminate nonconference games for all fall sports.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our No. 1 priority,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”

The Pac-12’s decision covers football, soccer and women’s volleyball. Conference-only schedules will be announced no later than July 31.

A shift to conference-only schedules will likely have a ripple across the college sports landscape.

Smaller schools that rely on revenue from guarantee football games against Power Five schools could be shorted millions of dollars.

Non-Power Five schools, such as Hawaii, receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million from guarantee games to fund their athletic departments.

The Rainbow Warriors had three games against Pac-12 opponents this season: at Arizona on Aug. 29, at home against UCLA on Sept. 5 and at Oregon on Sept. 19. They had already lost one opponent for 2020 — Fordham confirmed earlier this week that it was canceling its game at Aloha Stadium scheduled for Sept. 12.

Friday’s announcement means UH is not scheduled to open its season until Oct. 3 at home against Mountain West Conference foe Nevada. The Warriors’ only nonconference game left on the schedule is an Oct. 10 home game against New Mexico State.

“Obviously with three Pac-12 teams on our football schedule, today’s decision affects us more than others,” UH athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “We are disappointed because not only were we looking forward to opening the season at Arizona, we were excited to host UCLA for the first time in over 80 years and renew a series with Oregon. However the decision was made in the best interest of student-athlete health and wellness and we support that and will move on accordingly with the rest of our schedule.”

The Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences are still weighing options for fall sports. On Wednesday, the Ivy League became the first Division I conference to suspend all fall sports until at least January, leaving open the possibility of moving some sports to the spring if the pandemic is under better control.

In a statement after the Pac-12’s announcement, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said the conference is in communication with its member schools and advisors.

“As has been the case since the onset of the pandemic, we are fully engaged with our membership and advisors on a nearly daily basis exploring the myriad of potential scenarios around returning to competition,” Thompson said. “We were aware of this possibility and will continue to evaluate the appropriate decisions and the proper timing going forward. The safety, health, and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, staff members and campuses remain our top priority.”