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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 29, 2010

Hawaii Bowl can make a difference

By Ferd Lewis

When Ben Gottschalk, a top 15-ranked center, sat down in his Southern California home to watch the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl on TV, it was because of an interest in the University of Nevada, where he had just taken a recruiting visit.

But after glimpsing Southern Methodist University's 45-10 demolition of the Wolf Pack on Christmas Eve, Gottschalk warmed to a new possibility: the Mustangs.

That was all the opening SMU offensive line coach Adrian Klemm needed to swoop in and secure what Gottschalk's high school coaches said was commitment in advance of Wednesday's national signing day.

Every year coaches tout the benefits of being on TV during the bowl season and the games report how many households tuned in. But Gottschalk's turnaround helps put into 6-foot, 4-inch, 265-pound perspective what appearing in the Hawai'i Bowl and doing well can mean.

And, on the flip side, what getting embarrassed can do, too.

Because of its backyard familiarity, it is easy for folks here to look at the Hawai'i Bowl as just another in a long parade of holiday season bowl games. A game with one-day-a-year relevance. But a month later, the Hawai'i Bowl's impact endures, as both of the most recent participants can attest.

SMU coach June Jones, speaking in general terms since NCAA rules prohibit discussing prospective recruits until after signing, said the Hawai'i Bowl's visibility was "huge for our program." The Mustangs' first bowl appearance in 25 years and the lopsided result opened a lot of eyes "as I knew it would from the time I spent at (UH)," Jones said.

Indeed, Jones was among those who early on sought a bowl game here after his 9-3 team of 2001 was passed over for the postseason.

But if Jones' Mustangs are the poster program for the benefits of a good showing in the Hawai'i Bowl, then consider their victims, the Nevada Wolf Pack. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported yesterday the red-faced loss by the Wolf Pack was a factor in what it said was a win-or-else ultimatum for 2010 delivered to head coach Chris Ault shortly after the debacle. "We can't have those type of performances (such as the Hawai'i Bowl)," the paper quoted athletic director Cary Groth as saying.

All of which should assure that the next pair of participants will take their appearance here even more seriously.