Banners hang in the Cannon Activities Center, the home of Brigham Young University-Hawaii’s indoor sports. There are enough to circle the 4,500-seat arena, all of them commemorating the seasons that its teams were either NCAA Division II national champions or a runner-up.
They serve as an inspiring display of the school’s championship tradition, to show current Seasiders that they, too, could be honored in this fashion one day.
They also are a memento of an era of sports on the North Shore that is nearly over.
On March 28, 2014, the school announced that it would phase out its athletics department over three years and conclude at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. BYU-Hawaii’s website states that “The decision is made after many years of deliberation and with a goal of providing educational opportunities to a greater numbers of students.”
Those three years are almost up, and despite efforts from the community to reverse course, the school's athletes, coaches and administrators are readying to go elsewhere at the end of the spring semester.
As the last ball bounces
ATHLETES AT BYU-HAWAII ARE TRYING TO MAKE THE MOST OF THEIR TIME LEFT
BYU-Hawaii is located in the heart of Laie. The town’s rich history with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aligns with the school’s Mormon values. The majority of its male athletes went on Mormon missions before competing for the school.
Max Moncur, a member of the men’s cross country team, was just one of many athletes following the typical path for an LDS collegiate athlete: go on a mission, put school and sports on hold for two years, then come back with a full career ahead.
Then the unthinkable happened.
“That’s a big burden I have every night. We’ve got coaches we want to help find positions. They’ve got families,” BYUH athletic director Brad Jones said. “It’s a whole department. … These are their professions, and that’s something I worry about and something we’re working on.
“Our student athletes, they’re here on scholarships. It’s a unique and special opportunity that a lot of kids in America would love to have, is to be able to be a collegiate athlete and have their school paid for, so we’re trying to help them as well.”
Past or present, one of the most iconic figures in the athletics department is tennis head coach Dave Porter.
“This year’s going to be tough. We just take it one year at a time every year, and we’re just going to make it the very best that we can. It’s only about what’s happening right now. They’ll make that decision when the time comes.”
He started the tennis program at BYUH and has been the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams since the program’s inception in 1984. With 11 national championships between the two programs and 1,322 career wins, he’s five wins away from the national record. The women’s tennis team finished as national runner-up this spring and returns a senior-heavy squad. Needless to say, they want to go out with a bang.
He still remembers where he was when he heard the news.
“I was actually in the Philippines when I found out that the sports was getting cut. We actually had a typhoon during the time, so we didn’t have electricity or access to the internet for about a month, but I remember opening my email after that month and it saying that sports was going to get cancelled,” he said.
“I do remember feeling that although it was getting cancelled, sports getting cut, it was somewhere I needed to go, and I was going to have a great experience out here.”
Moncur’s athletic scholarship expires at the end of the 2016 fall semester. With two years of eligibility remaining, the sophomore is keeping his options open. Another factor he is keeping in mind is whether or not his credits will transfer should he choose to move elsewhere.
Written by: Christian Shimabuku Video by: Keon Diego & Gabe Estevez Photos By: Gabe Estevez
“It’s definitely sad because you see the tradition, and you hear about it. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here — the tradition,” said Cory Lange, a senior on the men’s basketball team. “They always had good teams and good winning programs.”
Lange is one of the lucky ones. As a senior, he expects to complete his degree during the 2017 spring semester. An ankle fracture is keeping him sidelined this season, but the preseason All-PacWest selection will be able to redshirt this year. He will get another year of eligibility at another school because of it.
He is currently considering other Division II schools on the West Coast. NCAA rules do not allow coaches from other schools to contact BYUH athletes until their seasons are over.
He also met his wife through the athletics program. Lacy Lange is a member of the women’s volleyball team, and the couple have a baby together.
Lange chose BYUH because of the basketball program’s winning ways. The Seasiders went to the national championship game in 2011 but fell short against Bellarmine.
Others chose to suit up for the Seasiders for more personal reasons.
The year before her freshman year, the Seasiders went all the way to the NCAA Division II Championship match, where they fell to Concordia-St.Paul. Fast-forward to the year before her senior year of playing for her dream school, and the junior is forced to look elsewhere for her final year.
"This was my dream school to come here. But when I found out, I was very devastated because I wanted to finish off here and I wasn't sure I was going to finish off in three years."
Photo Credit: BYUH
Tonga, an All-PacWest performer on the women’s volleyball team, was reared in the North Shore. The Kahuku High School graduate grew up idolizing BYUH volleyball athletes. She reflected about both the school and, by extension, the community of Laie without the athletics program.
“It makes me so sad,” she said. “I don’t know what to think. It’s going to be so weird honestly.”
All of BYUH’s teams are aiming to leave a lasting impression as the program folds up. The time for transition has come and will continue to do so at an even more rapid rate as May approaches. What won’t change is the history. The memories. The banners still will hang high on the rafters.
“It is extremely sad that the program is ending because it does have such great tradition,” Lange said. “But I don’t think that we know everything and being at an LDS school, we believe in standing by our leaders. We just have to have faith that out leaders know best.”
One way or another, faith is what brought people to the BYU-Hawaii athletics program.
Likewise, faith is how they plan to move on.