If adversity draws old friends together, the four Pacific
West Conference teams from Hawai‘i have a great bonding
opportunity. They were left alone when the two conference teams
Hawai‘i Pacific University, Brigham Young University—Hawai‘i,
Chaminade University, and University of Hawai‘i—Hilo
were left on their own after Montana State University—Billings
and Western New Mexico University bolted to join the Heartland
Conference. Now, with only four members, the PacWest is not considered
a Conference anymore because it does not have the minimum of
six participant universities required by the National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II.
The decision to join a new conference will cut travel costs
for both Montana—State Billings and Western New Mexico because
they will no longer have to sponsor trips to Hawaii.
While they won’t officially be a conference, the Hawai‘i
teams will be classified as “independent schools” even
though they retain ownership of the PacWest name. That means
they’ll have to earn their own way in to the post season
by qualifying for “at-large” regional positions.
The situation presents challenges, but our affiliation with the
other three Hawai’i schools remains solid,” said
E. Rick Stepien, HPU vice president of administration. “The
Presidents of all four schools have expressed a desire to retain
our natural alliance. Competition between our schools has always
been a positive factor and together we’ll continue this
Stepien said that initially, the conference was hopeful
that four Texas teams from the Heartland Conference would
the PacWest to form a 10—team conference. But the four backed
off, leaving the four Hawaiian teams alone.
The change will not affect any of the current winter
or spring sports, but it will make things harder in
HPU Senior Women’s Administrator Reydan “Tita” Ahuna
will be specially challenged with the situation. Since joining
the PacWest in 1998, her Lady Sea Warriors had won Conference
Championships five times—1998, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2004—receiving
an automatic ticket into regional play. “We won’t
have an automatic berth anymore and will have to schedule more
games on the mainland, if we can find games … and that
is a big if,” Ahuna said.
Ahuna added that it will also be more difficult, at
least in this coming season, but hopefully more teams
West next year and things will get back to normal.
Vera Oliveira, named PacWest Player of the Year last
season, said “It’s very frustrating, but we will be ready
to play despite any difficulties. It will be even more challenging
The PacWest will continue to seek new members. Until
then, the teams will have the chance to get better
The school presidents are in talks with other schools and leaving
all options on the table,” Stepien said. “If we can
get other members, the conference can be reconstituted. This
presents a change in scheduling, but there shouldn’t be
a major difference. We’ll probably play the other Hawai‘i
schools one or two more times in a season,” he added.