University of Hawaii players say they miss fans in stands

Sep. 15—A complex dilemma will continue as the University of Hawaii football team will play host to San Jose State on Saturday in another home game without fans.

“Wish we’d have a packed stadium, but we’re not going to have that, ” UH coach Todd Graham said of the Rainbow Warriors’ Mountain West Conference opener that will be played without spectators in the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex on the Manoa campus. “Hope our fans are all cheering on TV and all that good stuff.”

On Tuesday, Gov. David Ige decided to maintain the ban on large gatherings, rejecting a plea from parents of UH players seeking an exemption to attend at the retrofitted 9, 000-seat facility.

“I think it’s big to have fans here, ” wideout Nick Mardner said. “I don’t think a home game is a home game without fans. You don’t have that same atmosphere … the fans yelling at the other team, all the attributes that go into having a home-field advantage.”

The Warriors moved their home games to their campus when Aloha Stadium officials announced the Halawa facility was not structurally sound for spectator events. But the Warriors, who did not play in front of a crowd in 2020 because of the pandemic, did not have spectators for the home opener against Portland State. There were crowds for their two road games against UCLA and Oregon State.

“We really have to bring our own juice, ” Mardner said. “When it comes to juice and energy, we’ve got it. But it would be nice to have some fans here. All the hard work we put in, we want to have people see it. That’s big.”

Mardner said a home crowd would provide additional motivation.

“To see people there and to hear noise and a crowd and energy, it would change how things are, ” Mardner said. “Sometimes, it does feel when we’re playing here with no fans, it just feels like a scrimmage, nothing too crazy.”

The Warriors, who are 1-2, will be facing the 2020 Mountain West champions. “The expectations for that are kind of from the outside world, ” SJSU coach Brent Brennan said of the title defense. “We don’t talk about that. That’s not even where our heads are at all. We’re locked into giving our team the best chance to play good football on Saturday night in Hawaii. What happened last year was special, but that was last year. Like I’ve said many times, nobody cares what you did yesterday. It’s all about what we’re getting ready to do right now in preparation for Saturday.”

The Warriors, who struggled with slow starts against UCLA and Oregon State, also are not looking back.

“Everything we’ve done to this point is to have the opportunity to be 0-0 right now going into conference game No. 1, ” Graham said. “We’ve got eight conference games, and you’ve got to win this one. … At the end of the day, I told our players this : ‘we’re zero and zero. Everybody is zero and zero. Nobody’s made a yard in this conference. And nobody’s made a touchdown. Nobody’s made anything.'”—For more Hawaii football, visit the.