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Dave Reardon: San Jose State building a case as UH's new football rival

Jan. 24—It wasn't mutual, but until a year or two after the turn of the millennium the University of Hawaii's rival in football was clear.

Back when Kenny Niumatalolo and Craig Stutzmann played for Hawaii it was BYU — as it had been for many years before them.

But these days, younger UH fans, especially, don't get hyped about BYU.

Maybe those beat downs Hawaii put on Brigham Young after so many years of frustrating losses cooled the passion. The first one was in 1989, when Niumatalolo was a UH backup quarterback and the Rainbows pounded the Cougars 56-14.

Stutzmann was a young local kid who watched that one with glee, and the one the next year, too, when Hawaii won 59-28.

He got his turn in 2001. Stutzmann was a slot receiver when the Warriors crushed BYU 72-45 in his final game as a senior. He also kicked the most famous punt in UH history, into the stands after he scored a touchdown.

Since then, UH and BYU have played each other a few more times, but it's not the same, and Hawaii has changed rivals more often than the program has changed its nickname. Let's see ... they've been the Fighting Deans, Rainbows, Warriors and now, Rainbow Warriors. Pardon me if I missed one or two.

Same with the rivals ... it's hard to keep up. Since Stutzmann's punt the football team UH fans love to hate most has changed to, at various times, Fresno State, Boise State, and, briefly, Nevada. Yes, Nevada. No other opponent ever inspired a Warriors coach to wear a hunting knife on his belt (granted, it was sheathed and never brandished).

It's clear now, though, that UH's biggest football rival is San Jose State.

This was already brewing, but now it's confirmed, with the Spartans' hiring of Niumatalolo as head coach and Stutzmann as offensive coordinator. Also, don't be surprised if Billy Ray Stutzmann — Craig's brother, and another former Warriors player and assistant — finds his way to San Jose, since he coached receivers for Niumatalolo at Navy.

It will be very interesting to see what kind of offense San Jose State develops. The base formations Niumatalolo and the Stutzmanns have enjoyed success with look alike — two slots, two wideouts, one running back. But one is designed for running and the other passing. They're both called spreads. If you're a Spartans fan you have to hope they combine like peanut butter and jelly, not peanut butter and mustard.

Before this latest development, former Warriors held prominent positions with the Spartans. The previous head coach was former UH assistant Brent Brennan (and, yes, a cousin of the most legendary UH player of all, Colt Brennan).

And, sorry to remind Hawaii fans, because I know this one is pretty painful, but I have to: Chevan Cordeiro, a local product who started at quarterback at UH for three seasons and was a team captain transferred to San Jose State — and led the Spartans to a win over the Warriors here on homecoming. That's not a play on words; UH really did designate the game against the team its star quarterback transferred to as homecoming. I will never understand the logic of that one.

Then, of course, there was Dick Tomey. He was a great head coach at three schools: Hawaii, Arizona (which, by the way, hired Brennan, creating the opening for Niumatalolo) and San Jose State.

Tomey is so respected and beloved that a trophy named for him is awarded to the winner of the Hawaii-San Jose State game.

Tomey, Brennan, Cordeiro, Niumatalolo, Stutzmann ...

Before you know it, San Jose State will start adding guys named Kafentzis and Noga, too.

I've never heard even a hint of ill will between Hawaii coach Timmy Chang and any of the guys who will now wear blue and gold but still bleed green. Chang was Craig Stutzmann's UH teammate for two years, and like Cordeiro and the Stutzmanns he prepped at St. Louis.

And good luck finding anyone who doesn't like and respect Niumatalolo, even though anyone who ever served in the Army or Air Force is probably glad he's no longer at Annapolis.

Hawaii and San Jose State are both in the Mountain West Conference but don't play each other this year. When they do meet on the field, it will likely be one of those rivalries where they talk about being fans of each other except for one week a year.

That wouldn't be 100% true though, since these guys will compete for the same players from Hawaii in the recruiting wars, from the get-go. As we know, that job is endless. You have to continuously re-recruit even the players on your own team, and you never know who you might find in that transfer portal.