Chaminade Says “Aloha” on Maui Monday
My alma mater, Chaminade University of Honolulu, rests on a hill (Which is absolutely no fun to hike at 8 AM for a Monday morning class.), but proverbially, it lies in the shadows.
It’s in the shadows of its own zip code. The University of Hawaii-Manoa is literally a mile away but even though they’re in such close proximity, there’s no Cal-Stanford/USC-UCLA-type rivalry between the two schools, the same way that there’s no rivalry between McDonald’s and Sonic. One is just so much bigger and more important than the other that there’s no point. Go down to the popular watering hole, The Varsity, on University Ave. for “College Night” on Thursday and tell a UH co-ed that you go to CUH and she’ll shoot you a look of pity like you just told her that you have to put your dog down.
It’s in the shadows of its own Division-II conference, the Pacific West (which houses Bay Area universities Dominican, Academy of Art, Notre Dame de Namur, and Holy Names). The two other PAC-West schools on the island of Oahu, Hawaii Pacific and BYU-Hawaii get all the pub, and deservedly so. BYU-H has made the NCAA D-II men’s basketball tournament 10 of the past 13 seasons, while HPU’s men’s hoops team won an NAIA national championship in 1991. HPU meanwhile has won three women’s volleyball national titles in the 90s.
CUH is even in the shadow of its own address. Chaminade shares its campus with an all-boys, Catholic high school, St. Louis, which is a perennial football powerhouse in the high school football-crazed state and has churned out NFLers Dominic Raiola and Olin Kreutz, as well as current University of Oregon QB freshman sensation, Marcus Mariota. Walk into McCabe Gym on campus and it’s St. Louis’ logo that graces midcourt and their state title banners that hang in the rafters (Although, to be fair, CUH doesn’t have anything to hang.). Hell, the St. Louis boys even have enough pre-adolescent bravado to hit on some of the CUH co-eds.
Chaminade, for all intents and purposes, is an afterthought. It’s barely a college. I’m not saying that to belittle my school, I love Chaminade. It’s where I spent four of the best years of my life, but it’s tinier than the baby bump on a pregnant ant. Saying that you got the “college experience” from Chaminade is like saying that the first time you fell in love was with Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years or with Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World. It’s true, but it’s not REALLY true. There’s no football team. The library closes at 10 PM, and the student center (which yours truly was a faithful employee of) closes at 11 PM. The one dining hall is open from 11 AM-2 PM for breakfast/lunch and 5 PM-7PM for dinner. My buddy, Sheep, is in an MBA program at Syracuse University in upstate New York and every now and again he’ll send me a picture text of him sitting in the campus’s 30,000+ seat Carrier Dome catching a football or basketball game. More recently he sent me another one of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama shaking hands with Dave Matthews. He attended some sort of joint conference/concert that the two did together. The Dalai Lama. The Dalai freakin’ Lama. One time Chaminade brought in Tim O’Brien, the author of The Things They Carried, a favorite of many high school English teachers including mine, Mr. Vezzali, into our hundred-seat Ching Conference Center.
See the difference?
But one night a year, Chaminade steps out of the shadows and onto the national stage. Maui Monday.
The Maui Invitational is one of the preeminent pre-season college basketball tournaments in the nation. Four times in its history, the winner of that year’s tournament went on to win the NCAA national title. The most prestigious basketball programs in the NCAA take part in the annual tournament in Maui. North Carolina (champs in 2005 & ’09), Duke (’10 champs), Kansas (’08 champs & ’12 runner-up), Kentucky (’12 champs), Connecticut (’11 champs), Michigan State (’09 runner-up), and Butler (’10 & ’11 runners-up) have all participated in the Maui Invitational…in the past three years. I don’t know how to put this, but the Maui Invitational is kind of a big deal. If it were a person it’d be Ron Burgundy. People know it. It has many leather bound books and an apartment that smells of rich mahogany.
And then there’s Chaminade.
The only reason CUH even gets to play in the tournament every year is because it “hosts” it. Kind of. Want another indication of how small-time Chaminade is? They don’t hold the tournament in the gym on-campus. Brah, they don’t even hold it on their own island. They do it over in Maui, a 40-minute flight southeast of Oahu.
Knowledgeable college hoops fans have heard of Chaminade before. In December 1982, Chaminade, then in the NAIA, pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports when they knocked off #1 ranked Virginia, 77-72 (*). That win put CUH on the map, even if for one night a year. There’s even a story that before the upset, Chaminade brass was considering changing the school’s name to University of Honolulu. After the upset they decided to stick with Chaminade (**).
(*The stars were aligned for this game. Virginia had a 7’4″ center named Ralph Sampson who won National Player of the Year three times and was the first pick of the next year’s NBA draft, only Sampson and the rest of the Virginia team had just flown into Hawaii from playing in an exhibition tournament in Japan and were apparently sick from eating bad seafood and were exhausted from the jetlag. The game was thought to be so one-sided that nobody even bothered to air it on TV. A Blair Witch-type, home movie that someone recorded from the stands is the only known video from it. I like to think that the tape’s locked in a basement somewhere along with the equally hard to obtain campus parking passes. ZING!)
(**What’s with the funny name? Fr. William Joseph Chaminade (“Billy” for short) was a priest during the French Revolution. Since Catholics were facing persecution and being sent to the guillotine, he took the church underground. He eventually fled to Spain where he helped found the Society of Mary, or the Marianists. They emulate the ideals and values of the Virgin Mary the same way the Franciscans do with St. Francis and the Jesuits do with Jesus. By the way, I didn’t Wikipedia any of this; I remember all of this from college during “Founders Week” when Chaminade lured you to voluntary lectures and meetings you had to sit through the duration of if you wanted the free food at the end. The lesson here is that college students will do ANYTHING for free food. Well played, Chaminade University of Honolulu. Well played.)
My friends and I used to call the day when the Maui bracket came out, Judgment Day, when we found out which D-I team was going to pummel us into oblivion. This year Texas gets to don the executioner’s mask. The game usually ends in a blowout. A bunch of D-II NCAA players against teams who are ranked in the D-I Top 25, what else is expected? But every now and again Chaminade pulls out a win, like in 2010 when the Silverswords (Our mascot is the “Silversword.” It’s not what you think–a sword that’s silver. No, that’d be too cool. That’s not CUH’s style. The silversword is actually a penis-shaped plant that’s indigenous to Maui. That’s right, a university on Oahu has a mascot that’s from the island of Maui. At Chaminade you tend to learn that the truth is stranger than fiction. And yet, I must digress.) knocked off Oklahoma, or 2007 when we beat Princeton. But for Chaminade students, alums, and faculty the game means more than a win or a loss. It means we’re relevant. It means we’re important. It means we too get to be on ESPN, and see our colors, the blue and white, on national TV. It might not mean much, but for a 2,000-student university with a kahuna-sized Napoleon complex, it means a lot to us.
Because when you spend 365 days in the shadows of your own zip code, conference, and address, one night in the national spotlight can never quite be bright enough.