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The New Year brings with it many new questions about the place of Hawaii’s teams and athletes in the sports world.

These are among the most intriguing: How will University of Hawaii athletics adjust to the environment where money rules, more than ever before? Which athletes from the islands will shine in the Olympics? Who will play quarterback for UH, and how will other QBs from the islands fare in the NFL postseason and the Heisman Trophy race?

1. UH’s athletic future

The future of University of Hawaii athletics always seems unstable, even during good times.

Changes in college sports in recent years, and future ones proposed by NCAA president Charlie Baker, have added even more concern. The main one is if UH can afford to compete in a new structure.

Baker’s main idea is to create an upper subdivision of around 100 schools that would pay student-athletes directly. This group would include most of the 133 FBS schools (of which UH is one). Schools in this highest tier would agree to pay at least half of their athletes $30,000 per year, on top of their scholarships, according to a letter Baker sent to the more than 350 Division I schools last month.

The NCAA president also proposed that the schools be allowed to make name, image and likeness deals with athletes. As the rules stand now, only entities not officially linked to the schools can make NIL arrangements with the student-athletes.

UH’s annual revenues for sports in 2022 was close to $49.5 million, according to the Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database. This is only slightly lower than the median for UH’s fellow Mountain West football schools, but more than $30 million less than the median for all FBS schools.

If there is a new top 100 division of the NCAA can UH generate enough revenue to compete on something close to a level playing field beyond its own conference?

And, conversely, if UH were not to join such an upper tier what might it lose in many areas, including recruiting, funding generated by the top group and access to championships at the highest level?

2. Olympic surfing

Surfing at the Paris Olympics in late July and early August will be nearly halfway around the world, in Tahiti.

Carissa Moore won the first Olympics gold medal in surfing, in Japan in 2021. But the five-time world champion from Honolulu is among many who have expressed displeasure with the building of an aluminum observation tower at Teahupo’o, Tahiti, the competition site for the 2024 Games.

The conflict came to a head when a construction barge damaged coral reef at Teahupo’o early last month. Construction of the tower has been paused.

John John Florence of Haleiwa and Moore have both already earned spots representing the U.S., in the 2024 Olympics, as they did at the Tokyo Games.

The U.S. men’s national volleyball team qualified for the ’24 Games in October. Kamehameha graduate Micah Christenson is again the squad’s starting setter. Punahou alums Erik Shoji (libero) and hitter Micah Ma’a (setter) and former UH middles Taylor Averill and Patrick Gasman are also on the national team roster.

The U.S. men did not advance out of pool play in Tokyo. They are now ranked second in the world, behind Poland.

The American women won gold in Japan. UH All-American Amber Igiede has trained with the national team.

3. The QB Club

Quarterbacks are always a focal point, but especially so for several with Hawaii ties in 2024.

Saint Louis School grad Tua Tagovailoa, assuming he remains healthy, will lead the Miami Dolphins into the postseason for the first time in his four-year NFL career. Another former Crusader, Marcus Mariota, is the backup to Jalen Hurts on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tagovailoa’s brother, Taulia, a four-year starter at Maryland, is expected to be a mid-round NFL Draft choice.

Mililani grad Dillon Gabriel transferred from Oklahoma to Oregon, and is listed among favorites to win the 2024 Heisman Trophy.

At one point, it appeared that UH could lose both returning three-year starter Brayden Schager to the transfer portal, and prize freshman recruiting commitment Micah Alejado, who was courted by UNLV.

But on signing day Alejado, who threw 35 touchdown passes with no interceptions at Bishop Gorman in Nevada in 2023, put his pledge to the Warriors in writing. Then, Schager was allowed to return to the Warriors when he decided to remain at Manoa than transfer to another school.

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