Nine years ago when the Bowl Championship Series was born, storied Notre Dame swiftly opted out of its scheduled Nov. 24, 2001, game with the University of Hawai'i football team.
"With the new (BCS), the implications of playing that game (against UH) are different than they used to be," a Notre Dame spokesman explained at the time.
The meaning was clear: The Irish didn't need the Warriors nor, after two close previous encounters, did they particularly want UH potentially sabotaging a late-season BCS national title run.
But, boy, have things changed a lot since then. At a down-and-out 6-6 and after a beyond-humbling setback to woeful Syracuse, the Irish have tumbled a long way from worrying about national championship "implications." They'd just like to climb back to respectable.
That's why they want Hawai'i and the Dec. 24 date in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl now. Frankly, they need Hawai'i and its bowl in 2008 and the reasoning isn't hard to comprehend.
The Irish have given their embattled head coach, Charlie Weis, a stay of dismissal with clear marching orders: Demonstrate progress, pronto. Aloha Stadium is clearly where they mean for that turnaround to begin.
Time was when pride would have compelled the Irish to stay home after a .500 season, especially one that ended so pitifully. But these are hard times in the land of Touchdown Jesus, a hallowed place where the echoes haven't been awakened as much as the Four Horsemen are left to roll in their graves.
So a trip here is definitely the best of the available options from the Irish's perspective. The 7-6 Warriors, especially after the fourth-quarter debacle against Cincinnati Saturday, are seen as a beatable team, somebody the Irish can kick start the '09 campaign against on a feel-good ESPN holiday stage. Weis probably couldn't scream "book 'em" fast enough watching that one.
In the meantime, the Hawai'i Bowl provides the kind of location that can re-energize a largely young team in ways that a visit to, say, Birmingham, Ala., for the http://www.Papajohns.com Bowl wouldn't. Hawai'i was, we are told, the preferred destination of players who were surveyed. As you can see, not a lot of dummies get in there.
The Hawai'i Bowl also makes for a visible reminder to recruits who are wavering or undecided that the Irish are intent upon moving forward. Especially if one of them just happens to be all-world linebacker Manti Te'o of Punahou School.
His recruiting trip to South Bend was for the Syracuse game, when students pelted Irish players with snowballs and sang dirges of disappointment with Weis.
Notre Dame can be assured there will be no snowballs here.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org