Connecting Football Fans
"Every Hawai‘i fan deserves good seats!" says University of Hawai‘i alum Tom Kitaguchi, a 1975 graduate and four-year Rainbow tennis player. Since 2011, the San Francisco resident has spearheaded efforts to connect Rainbow Warrior football fans to the team and to each other, purchasing blocks of the best seats in each stadium the Warriors visit. "The seats allotted the visiting teams are usually in the corner of the end zone, or far away from the action," he explains. Rather than settle for designated seating, Tom purchases seats—often at midfield, right behind the Hawai‘i bench—making them available for Hawai‘i fans who live abroad or make the trip just to see the 'Bows.
Displaced islanders aren't the only fans who benefit from Tom’s initiative: often, players' families will participate as well, since his tickets are so much better than those offered by the opposing hosts. One game at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas saw more than 400 Hawai‘i supporters; at others, notable Hawai‘i ex-pats, such as ESPN SportsCenter anchor Larry Beil and former Warriors Jesse Sapolu and Gary Allen, will sometimes drop by.
Raising excitement and needed funds
In his Hawaii Football--Warrior Nation group on Facebook, which has more than 2600 members, Kitaguchi, along with fellow supporters Curtis Sano and Dennis Nakano, drums up support for the team and brings fans together, even for road games he is unable to attend.
In 2012, through his Warrior Nation Fund (to which donations are tax deductible), Tom raised $4000 for the purchase of knee braces for the offensive line. His current effort has so far raised another $4000 to help with recruiting costs. "This feels like a turning point," he explains, "and we seem to be on the right track with coach Nick Rolovich." The second-year head coach shares the excitement and acknowledges Tom’s efforts:
On behalf of the UH Rainbow Warrior Football program, I would like to give a big mahalo to the Hawai‘i Football Warrior Nation for its tremendous support—both monetarily through the Warrior Nation Fund and in your efforts to assemble groups of loyal Hawai‘i fans for our road games, far away from Aloha Stadium. It is great to see several hundred enthusiastic Hawai‘i fans right behind our benches at the road games, and I know the players and coaches love to feel that aloha in the opponents’ stadiums.
I appreciate all that the Warrior Nation group has done, and thank you in advance for the continuing support. At your request, donations to the Warrior Nation Fund in 2016 and 2017 will be applied toward our recruiting efforts. Thank you for supporting the lifeline of our program!
Through online discussion, group ticket purchases for road games, and fundraising in support of the 2016 Hawai‘i Bowl victors, Kitaguchi hopes to "get people more interested in Hawai‘i football, share stories and experiences, and boost the program in any way possible."