The Athletic Department didn’t waste much time in its search this time. While the quest for a new head basketball coach wasn’t exactly the model of efficiency, the time between Norm Chow’s firing and the hiring of a new football coach spanned just 26 days and the Rainbow Warriors went into their final game of 2015 knowing that Nick Rolovich will be manning the sidelines when 2016 rolls around.
The decision is not much of a shock as Rolovich was an obvious choice and one of just five reported candidates to be under serious consideration in recent weeks. His longstanding ties to Hawaii football should allow for a smooth transition process and his success as an assistant under Greg McMackin give plenty of reason for hope that a return to relevance could be on the horizon.
While fans seemed to be itching for a reunion with June Jones, Rolovich might make more sense in what is sure to be a full program rebuild. Since leaving UH in 2011, Rolovich has been the offensive coordinator for Nevada. The Wolfpack offense is having its lowest output this season since Rolovich’s arrival, but their 388 total yards per game is still higher than UH has averaged in three of the four seasons since his departure.
During his last season at Hawaii, Rolovich directed the offense to a 31.5 points per game average, compared to the somewhat anemic 16.8 that the ‘Bows had averaged this year heading into Saturday’s contest with Louisiana-Monroe. Offense breeds excitement and Rolovich knows offense. Whether that’s enough to get UH on the right track and become a conference contender once again remains to be seen.
It’s impossible to predict whether this move sends the team quickly in the right direction because each of the previous hirings have seemed to be home runs, as well. McMackin had plenty of NFL experience and was successful as a college defensive coordinator. He did lead UH to a WAC title in 2010 but his results were underwhelming overall.
Chow’s resume was well-known and his experience with elite programs and quarterbacks seemed to be a can’t-miss recipe for success. That hasn’t been the case.
So all Rolovich can do now in his first head coaching gig is to try to make it his own. It’s a benefit for him to be walking into a situation with low expectations, which may have not been the same had Jones gotten the job. But Rolovich has an opportunity to build the program from the ground up and his connection to the past should give him some leeway to make mistakes and still feel secure. It’s similar to the Kliff Kingsbury hire at Texas Tech in 2013, though Hawaii is in a more desperate situation than the Red Raiders were. But a young, former superstar quarterback taking over at his alma mater certainly isn’t unprecedented and hopefully Rolovich is given the opportunity to be here for the long haul. There isn’t a quick fix in the works.
The school has announced an increased deficit because of the diminishing income provided by the football program, but maybe Rolovich will be a shot in the arm that can bring fans back to Aloha Stadium and get the scoreboard ticking in the right direction again.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.