Big West Says Aloha To 10th Member University Of Hawai'i
Welcome home, University of Hawai'i. Aloha!
The 10th and newest member of the Big West Conference joins forces with the nine current California league institutions today, July 1, 2012.
New and rekindled rivalries will be forged with California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; California State University, Fullerton; California State University, Northridge; Long Beach State University; University of California, Davis; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Riverside; University of California, Santa Barbara; and University of the Pacific.
Hawai'i spent the previous 33 years in the Western Athletic Conference, claiming 71 team and more than 175 individual championships while competing in a combined 14 men’s and women’s sports.
The success of those programs elevates the stature of the Big West, which is not an unfamiliar destination for the Rainbow Wahine.
In fact, the Big West housed UH’s women’s programs from 1984-96. During that time, the Rainbow Wahine women’s volleyball team won a national championship in 1987 and was a national runner-up in 1988. The softball program made back-to-back NCAA Championship appearances in 1994 and 1995. Women’s basketball made four trips to the NCAA Tournament – 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1996.
“I remember the days when Hawai'i was a part of the Big West Conference in women’s sports. They were a very valuable member – one of our original members in women’s sports,” said Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell. “With the success that they brought to the conference in women’s volleyball and women’s basketball, they were tremendous members and I was certainly sorry to see them leave in the mid 90’s, but I understood why they had to.”
But now they’re back. And this time it’s a comprehensive package of men’s and women’s programs that will compete in 13 of the 16 sports the Big West sponsors. The Rainbow Warriors will field teams in four men’s sports, including basketball, baseball, tennis and golf. The Rainbow Wahine women’s programs will send out representatives in volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, softball, tennis, golf, track and field, and water polo.
“There’s not a conference that’s more suitable for the University of Hawai'i to be part of than the Big West Conference. With all of our institutions in the state of California, there’s just a little body of water between those institutions and the University of Hawai'i,” said Farrell.
With a strong fan base on the mainland and a high percentage of Hawai'i student-athletes hailing from the Golden State, heightened support and excitement is an inevitable byproduct of the marriage between UH and the Big West.
“Being involved with the Big West is super because we get about 35-50 percent of our recruits from the California area or surrounding areas to California, and that’s very valuable to us,” said UH Director of Athletics Jim Donovan. “There is great competition in the Big West – baseball, soccer, water polo, volleyball, softball – those are all programs we think we can bring something to the league.”
“All in all, this has been a great move for us. Great to be with everybody again.”
A perennial top 10 program and national championship contender every year, UH women’s volleyball is eager to be among its Big West brethren again.
“For me personally, it’s going to renew a lot of old acquaintances and battling against some older coaches and revisiting some cities and towns we’re used to going to…that’s going to be neat for me,” said UH head coach Dave Shoji, who just completed his 37th season at the helm. “The Big West is going to offer us more competition. You’re going to have to play every night out and play hard if you want to win. We’re going to have to play at a higher level.”
Listen to coaches talk on both sides and the recurring theme is that UH boosts the credibility of the Big West, and vice versa.
“I think it brings a lot of credibility to our institution,” said UH head women’s soccer coach Michele Nagamine. “The conference in general has such a good reputation and people follow what’s going on in the Big West. We’re really excited about some of the opportunities the Big West brings to us.”
A win-win situation. Figuratively speaking, the Big West found the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow.