By Jim Lighthall

Hawaii has been playing football since 1909. But thanks to the arms race that has become college athletics, the Rainbow Warriors days might be numbered.

Athletic Director Ben Jay told his board of regents on Monday that due to a $2.1-million athletic department deficit, the school might be forced to give up football. You would think Hawaii would protect its biggest money maker, right? Well, it’s also its biggest money spender.

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Hawaii needed a season-ending win over Army to salvage a 1-11 season this past year. Boosters aren’t usually lining up to donate money to a 1-11 football team. That’s why the program failed to raise $1-million it was really counting on in 2013. In fact, Hawaii’s athletic budget has been in the red 11 of the last 13 years. Maybe at Oklahoma or Michigan or Notre Dame or Alabama it would only take a phone call or two to make up those minor shortfalls. But not at Hawaii – who’s played in exactly one New Year’s Day bowl in school history.

With the decision by the Power 5 conferences to allow cost of attendance stipends, this puts programs like Hawaii in dire straits. Do they try to find more money (likely from extra student body fees) to pay their players so as to keep pace with the Power 5? Do they keep things the way they are now and likely never have a chance at playing for the the national championship? Or will they drop football in an effort to salvage their 18 other sports?

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How is Norm Chow (4-20 in two years as head coach) supposed to recruit this season? He’ll need to tell kids to overlook their already below-standard facilities and the dark shadow of football on the chopping block?

So why do we, in the Bay area, care about Hawaii? Because USF falls into the same category. They’re on the outside looking in. Maybe forever.

College football (and amateur athletics in my opinion) will never be the same. It’s become the Have’s and the Have Not’s. Should schools like Texas (who’s football team operated at a $78-million surplus in 2013), Michigan ($62-million) and Florida ($51-million) feel sorry for the Hawaii’s of the world? Probably not. But the days of building a program – the sleeping giant – are over. Don’t ever expect to see schools like Florida State, Miami and Florida quickly rise to a national power again. And you know who loses out? Us, the fans.

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The little guy no longer has a chance.