College football has all kinds of scheduling oddities. Right now, the oddest: a combined 20,000-mile round-trip, home-and-home series between Hawaii and UMass. The Rainbow Warriors beat the Minutemen in Amherst on Saturday, 38-35.
The campuses are 5,000 miles and about 10-and-a-half hours apart by plane. Multiply that by four trips, two per team, and you get a rough estimate of a 20,068-mile college football event over two seasons. UMass visited Honolulu for a 46-40 UH victory last November, and now the Rainbow Warriors have completed the sweep.
Neither team is subsidizing the series for the other. The home team in each game pays out a $400,000 guarantee to the visitor, according to a game contract obtained by SB Nation through a public records request.
It’s probably the most distant home-and-home series ever.
Hawaii is by far the most remote team in the country. The Rainbow Warriors played a home game against FCS Maine in 1990, and it appears the Black Bears are the only team farther from Hawaii to ever play UH in football. Among FBS teams, UMass is the farthest geographic reach ever for a Hawaii game.
So, really, it’s not just the farthest-apart series. This might have been the farthest-apart game between two FBS teams, and the Minutemen and Rainbow Warriors did it twice.
It’s not necessarily the longest road trip, though, since teams from the Mainland have played in Australia and Japan before.
Hawaii non-league scheduling is difficult because ... it’s Hawaii.
As paradisiacal as the islands are, they’re an expensive travel destination. Including players, coaches, support staff, and administrators, a team’s travel party is well over 100 people.
It’s not just money. Hawaii is six hours behind the East Coast, which makes it a logistical nightmare in the middle of the season. UMass’ visit last year was the Minutemen’s last game of the year, so it was fine. But every year, a few teams have to head to the islands and then get home to play another game on a week’s rest. The MWC can make schools do that, but non-conference foes would usually rather not. Last year, no non-conference FBS teams visited Hawaii the week before another game.
UMass’ status as an independent makes it ripe for weird scheduling.
The Minutemen have played a hodgepodge of teams since going indie. This year, they’ll play teams from seven FBS conferences, plus independent BYU and FCS Maine. Most of their opponents are in the Eastern time zone, though they’ve also got trips to Mississippi State and BYU on the docket. They have no choice but to go where the games are.
Hawaii made the arrangement work for UMass by setting up the Minutemen’s visit for the end of 2016. UMass is making it work for the Rainbow Warriors by hosting them right at the beginning of 2017. Amherst is the longest trek UH will make this season, so having some extra time on the front end to get there and prepare is helpful.
Last year was the teams’ first meeting. But they might be the right kind of odd couple.
Hawaii plays in a gorgeous no-man’s land. UMass has no league, no major stature like Notre Dame and BYU, and no major rival like Army has in Navy. Both can get lonely on the college football playground sometimes, so why not hang out?