While Hawaii has put in the miles, Michigan is content with opening at home
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Some of Michigan’s football players like the idea of having a luau, or tossing a boomerang around on a sandy beach somewhere on the South Pacific shores.
But other players don’t like the idea of crossing the international date line or fighting jet lag.
When it comes to playing football in a far-away time zone, the Wolverines are divided on the experience.
If there’s anyone who’s undecided about the idea of using a passport in order to play football, they can talk to their next opponent about it. The Wolverines open the season at noon Saturday against Hawaii, which lost to California 51-31 in its season opener last Friday at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia.
There’s no rest for the weary Rainbow Warriors. They traveled more than 5,000 miles from their Honolulu campus to Sydney, returned to Hawaii, and now will travel nearly 4,500 miles to the Midwest to face the Wolverines. Then, they’ll turn around and return to Honolulu.
The Rainbow Warriors will travel nearly 50,000 miles this season, out of necessity.
“When you’re in the middle of the Pacific, every trip is a long way,” Hawaii athletic director David Matlin told The New York Times.
Travel is a way of life in major college athletics. But when asked to consider the idea of traveling overseas for a game, several of Michigan’s players were split on the idea.
“It was a hard time going to Utah” Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “The elevation made it difficult. They said we weren’t going to be tired, but you could definitely tell there was a difference.
“To say I would fly 23 hours back home, to come back here in one week? No. That’s hard. Ask anybody.”
Hawaii arrived the Monday prior to the game and literally hit the ground running, practicing within three hours of landing in Australia.
California, meanwhile, took a 14-hour flight from northern California to Sydney, where the Rainbow Warriors faced the Golden Bears in the first college football game in Australia since 1987. Cal coach Sonny Dykes and his team called the trip “a working holiday.”
“The drinking age is 18 here, but the good thing about our kids is we’re a young football team, but they’re mature, probably more than the average 18- 22-year-old,” Dykes told Fox Sports Australia.
“But having said that, you’re still concerned. You want to make sure they represent the university the right way and represent the football program the right way.”
Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon would be open to the idea of going overseas to play a football game.
“That would be awesome,” Gedeon said. “Play football in a different spot? I just like to travel so I think that would be an awesome experience. And to play the game we love, while traveling? It’s even cooler.”
The Wolverines gained one advantage by having college football open a week early: they got the chance to scout Saturday’s opponent.
“I fell asleep early,” offensive lineman Kyle Kalis said. “But from what I saw, they’re a fast, penetrating defense. They’re going to bring it on almost every single down, which is kind of wild, but we’ll be ready for that. They’re hard-working guys.”
Kalis, however, said he wouldn’t want to play outside of the continental U.S., or in another country.
“I’m happy with the Big House,” the senior said.
Rachel Lenzi covers Michigan sports for Landof10.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @RLenziAJC