From 2000 until July 1, 2013, the football team was renamed to simply Warriors, until a 2013 decision to standardize all of the school's athletic team names took effect, and the team was once again known as the Rainbow Warriors.
The Hawaiʻi Warriors were the third team from a non automatic qualifier conference to play in a BCS bowl game. They played Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 2008, in New Orleans, and lost 41–10.
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1920 – The College of Hawaii becomes the University of Hawaiʻi and the football team plays its first intercollegiate game against Nevada, losing 14–0 on Christmas Day.
Otto Klum era (1921–1939)
1922 – Hawaiʻi defeats its first collegiate opponent, beating Pomona 25–6 on Christmas Day.
1923 – A rainbow appears over Moiliili Field after Hawaiʻi upsets Oregon State, 7–0. Local reporters begin calling UH athletic teams the "Rainbows."
1924–25 – The Rainbows, under the guidance of coach Otto Klum, complete back-to-back undefeated seasons. The Rainbows outscore their opponents 606–29 in 18 games. Among the schools defeated during this time are Colorado, Colorado State and Washington State. These Rainbow teams become known as the "Wonder Teams" due to their outstanding play.
1926 – The Rainbows play their first game at their newly constructed home field, Honolulu Stadium. The Rainbows fall to the Town Team by a score of 14–7 in front of 12,000 fans on Armistice Day.
1935 – Rainbow running back and future coach Tom Kaulukukui becomes Hawaiʻi's first All-American player. Kaulukukui starred on Hawaiʻi's 1934 undefeated team and set a school record in 1935 with a 103-yard kick return touchdown during a 19–6 loss to UCLA in Los Angeles. Kaulukukui's number 32 is later retired by the University and remains the only number to be retired in Hawai'iʻin football history.
Eugene Gill era (1940–1941)
1942 – Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into World War II, Hawaiʻi cancels the 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 football seasons.
Tom Kaulukukui era (1946–1950)
1946 – Hawaiʻi resumes football play after a four-year hiatus as a member of the NCAA. Hawaiʻi enters as a College Division Independent. The Rainbows continue to play local teams on occasion but the bulk of their schedules are made up of collegiate teams.
Hank Vasconcellos era (1952–1960)
1955 – A year after suffering a 50–0 blowout loss to Nebraska in Honolulu, the Rainbows go up to Lincoln the following season and upset the Huskers 6–0. The win is considered one of the school's all-time biggest upsets.
1961 – The UH Board of Athletic Control votes to abolish the football program due to a lack of finances. The program would return to intercollegiate competition the following year behind the urgings of new athletics director Young Suk Ko.
Jim Asato era (1962–1964)
Shaughnessy-Sarboe-King era (1965–1967)
1965 – Larry Price performed in his third Hula Bowl as a College All-Star after a stint in the U.S. Army where he performed twice for the Hawai'i All-Stars. Legendary coach Clark Shaughnessy takes over for one season but the Rainbows flounder through a 1–8–1 season.
1966 – Phil Sarboe, after 15 seasons as head coach at Humboldt State, guides the team to a 4–6 record playing its first all-collegiate schedule. He resigns for "personal reasons" after the season.
1967 – Don King, an assistant under Sarboe, becomes head coach and the much-improved Rainbows post a 6–4 record. Significantly, large crowds (18,000 to 20,000) flock to Honolulu Stadium to watch the Rainbows for the first time in many years, setting the stage for a major gridiron revival in future years.
Dave Holmes era (1968–1973)
1968 – Head coach Dave Holmes begins what would be the most successful coaching tenure at Hawaiʻi. From 1968–1974, UH won 67 percent of its games and never suffered a losing season. Holmes still ranks as the all-time leader at Hawaiʻi in winning percentage (.718). Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 16th round, Larry Cole becomes the first UH Warrior to be drafted by an NFL team. Cole was a one-year transfer from the United States Air Force Academy and later graduated from the University of Houston.
1972 – Larry Cole becomes the first former Warrior to start for a world champion football team with the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.
1973 – The Rainbows record what is widely considered to be the biggest upset in school history, defeating Washington 10–7 in front of 52,500 in Seattle. The Huskies were favored to beat Hawaiʻi by as many as 50 points.
Larry Price era (1974–1976)
1974 – Hawaiʻi becomes an NCAA Division I member. The team's new nickname becomes the "Bow's." They play their final year at Honolulu Stadium. Larry Price becomes Hawaiʻi's first Division I head football coach.
1975 – 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium becomes the new home of Hawaiʻi football. Hawaiʻi loses its first game in the new stadium, falling to Texas A&I by a score of 43–9 in front of a crowd of 32,247.
1976 – The NCAA reclassifies its divisions and drops Hawaiʻi to Division I-AA (now FCS). Athletic Director Ray Nagel appeals the decision and the next month the NCAA reinstitutes Hawaiʻi to Division I-A (now FBS) status.
1992 – Hawaiʻi wins a share of its first-ever WAC championship and posts its first bowl game victory, a 27–17 defeat of Illinois in the Thrifty Car Rental Holiday Bowl. Hawaiʻi would finish the season ranked 20th in the nation and post a team-record 11 victories.
1998 – Hawaiʻi suffers through the program's first-ever winless season, going 0–12 under head coach Fred von Appen. Von Appen coached the Rainbow Warriors. to a 5–31 record in his three years at Hawaiʻi. He would be fired after the season.
June Jones era (1999–2007)
1999 – June Jones becomes the new head coach at Hawaiʻi and guides the Rainbow Warriors to the best single-season turnaround in NCAA history, winning nine games and a share of the WAC championship. Hawaiʻi would go on to defeat Oregon State in the Jeep Oʻahu Bowl, 23–17.
2001 – Hawaiʻi changes its nickname from "Rainbow Warriors" to simply "Warriors." Wide receiver Ashley Lelie becomes the highest draft pick in program history as the Denver Broncos select him with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Rich Ellerson extends coaching tree for former UH Warriors by being named as head coach for Cal Poly. During his eight-year tenure, Ellerson led Cal Poly to a 52–38 record.
2002 – Hawaiʻi is invited to play in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawaiʻi Bowl. The Warriors would fall to Tulane, 36–28.
2003 – Hawaiʻi returns to the Hawaiʻi Bowl and defeats Houston in a wild 54–48 triple-overtime game. Most notable win of the season came against Alabama in Tuscaloosa by the score of 37-29.
2004 – Hawaiʻi returns for a third-straight season to the Hawaii Bowl and triumphs over UAB, 59–40. Hawaiʻi quarterback Timmy Chang would also become the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards with 17,072 over the course of his career, eclipsing the old mark (15,031) set by former BYU quarterback Ty Detmer.
Game between Boise State and Hawaiʻi in 2007. Hawaiʻi won 39–27.
2005 – Hawaiʻi finishes 5–7 and misses out on playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2001, despite a breakout year for quarterback Colt Brennan.
2006 – Quarterback Colt Brennan sets NCAA single-season records for touchdown passes (58) and passer efficiency rating (185.78), on his way to a sixth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting. The Warriors return to the Hawaiʻi Bowl and defeat Arizona State, 41–24. Hawaiʻi head coach June Jones passes Dick Tomey to become the winningest head coach in school history.
2007 – Brennan adds to his collection of NCAA records, breaking Detmer's career records for TD passes and total TDs passing, rushing and receiving. He and wide receiver Davone Bess also tied an NCAA record for most career TDs by a quarterback-receiver combination. The Warriors are unbeaten, with a breakthrough win against Boise State, giving the Warriors their first win ever over the Broncos as a WAC member and their first outright WAC title ever. A 35–28 win over Washington in the season finale on December 1 resulted in them finishing No. 12 in the BCS rankings and earning a berth in the Sugar Bowl. This is the first regular season Hawaiʻi has ever gone undefeated. Hawaiʻi was also the sole undefeated college football team for the season. Hawaiʻi then played Georgia on January 1, 2008 in New Orleans, losing 41–10. Ken Niumatalolo extends coaching tree for former UH Warriors by being named as Head Football Coach for Navy. Quarterback Colt Brennan was selected for the second year in a row as a Heisman Finalist, this time finishing in third place behind Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden.
Greg McMackin era (2008–2011)
2008 – Head coach June Jones resigns shortly after the 2007 season, ending his nine-year coaching run to become the new head coach at Southern Methodist University. On January 15, Greg McMackin, formerly the defensive coordinator under June Jones, accepted the position of head coach. Rich Ellerson extends coaching tree for former UH Warriors by being named as head coach for Army.
2010 – Hawaiʻi wins its 4th WAC Championship by becoming co-champions with Nevada and Boise State. University of Hawaiʻi received and accepted an invitation to join the Mountain West Conference for football only and Big West Conference for all other sports. The Warriors bolted from Western Athletic Conference to join the Mountain West Conference along with rivals; Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada. Boise State started playing in the MWC starting in 2011, while Hawaiʻi along with Fresno State and Nevada made their MWC debuts in 2012.
2011 – Coach Greg McMackin resigns as head coach citing "being forced out under pressure" from the past season's record.Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow was chosen to succeed McMackin.
2013 – Norm Chow and the Rainbow Warriors fall to 1–11, defeating only Army in the last game of the season.
2014 – The season started with promise under new starter Ikaika Woolsey, but during a game versus Northern Iowa, the frustrated crowd of 20,000 was audibly booing the offense for continually running with limited passing plays. Chow described the 27–24 win as "joyless", but following a tough loss to former WAC foe Rice, the 'Bows put together the best performance of the season with a wild 38–28 win over Wyoming, capturing the Paniolo Trophy for the first time since 1992. But the team fell apart, culminating in a disheartening 28–21 loss to Fresno State following a wild 37–35 victory over UNLV. The loss salted already smashed hopes of a division title, ending the 'Bows season at 4–9.
2015 – The season started out with a big win for the program over Colorado but the team slumped to 2–7 and Norm Chow was fired following a program-worst 51-point conference home loss to Air Force, 58–7, with the Falcons retaining the Kuter Trophy. Chris Naeole was named the interim head coach the Sunday following the game. Later, defensive coordinator Tom Mason was reassigned to an administrative role before the season finale. But the Rainbow Warriors fought on, winning their final game of the season and finishing with an overall record of 3–10. On November 27, Nevada offensive coordinator and former UH Warrior Nick Rolovich took over as head coach, succeeding Naeole. The 107,145 in attendance for the game against Ohio State at the Ohio Stadium on September 12 is the second largest crowd to ever attend a University of Hawaii football game.
Nick Rolovich era (2016–2019)
2016 – The 2016 college football season started with a new head coach on August 27 at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia, for a game between the Cal Golden Bears and the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors, the first international football game for UH. Like those before it, the season started with a 51–31 loss, further heightened by a 63–3 thrashing at the hands of national power Michigan. The 110,222 in attendance for the game against Michigan at Michigan Stadium on September 3 is the largest crowd to ever attend a University of Hawaii football game. This broke the previous record attendance, which was set in 2015. The team also saw the largest ticket attendance since 2014, 28,687 in a 41–38 loss to UNLV on Homecoming Night.
2017 – The season saw Hawaii win their first two games over UMass and Western Carolina, but injuries to key players such as John Ursua lead to the Warriors losing 9 of their last 10 games of the season.
2019 – Coming of their most successful season in 8 years, Hawaii entered the season winning a 45–38 thriller against Arizona, stopping Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate 1 yard short of the end zone as time expired. Hawaii spends the season with alternating quarterback play, with Cole McDonald starting 13 games, and Chevan Cordeiro starting 2 and replacing McDonald as starter in 10 of McDonald's 13 starts. Hawaii wins their conference game against San Diego State 14–11, clinching their first division title in the history of Hawaii's play in the Mountain West Conference. Hawaii loses the Mountain West Championship to Boise State 31–10, but wins their bowl game to BYU 38–34 behind Hawaii QB Cole McDonald's 493 yards and 4 TDs. Hawaii finishes the season 10–5, their first ten win season since 2010, and just the seventh in program history. Head coach Nick Rolovich is named Mountain West Coach of the Year as a result, becoming the first coach to win it from Hawaii during their tenure in the Mountain West.
Todd Graham era (2020–present)
2020 – Coming off a ten win season and a division title, head coach Nick Rolovich suddenly departs from the program to take the head coaching position at Washington State University, taking most of his coaching staff and support staff with him. Starting quarterback Cole McDonald also departs from Hawaii, declaring for the NFL Draft. Approximately 1 week later, athletic director David Matlin announces the hire of former Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. Graham retains two assistants, Jacob Yoro and Abe Elimimian from Rolovich's staff, and hires G. J. Kinne and former Hawaii linebacker Victor Santa Cruz as offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator respectively. The Rainbow Warriors win their first game of the season against rivalFresno State, 34–19, accumulating over 300 yards of rushing and forcing four turnovers; Graham becomes the first UH head coach to win in his debut since Bob Wagner in 1987. The season was also highlighted by an upset of previously undefeated Nevada, which effectively gave the Rainbow Warriors a bowl berth ahead of San Diego State and Fresno State on a tiebreaker. They capped off the year by winning the New Mexico Bowl over Houston, 28–14. The bowl victory clinched a third straight winning season and the 100th win in Graham’s career.
2021 – Issues with Aloha Stadium led to that venue halting the scheduling of new events as of December 2020. As a result, the Rainbow Warriors announced plans to play home games on campus at the Clarence T. C. Ching Athletics Complex "for at least the next three years".
Bowl games played from 1934 to 1952 were not NCAA-sanctioned. In December 1941, just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaiʻi was scheduled to play in a three-team round robin tournament called the Shrine Bowl, which included Hawaiʻi, San Jose State, and Willamette University of Salem, Oregon. Only one game was actually played, with Hawaiʻi defeating Willamette 20–6.
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With the BYU rivalry losing steam after the Cougars left the WAC in 1999, the rivalry with Fresno State has increased greatly in recent years, with both teams being the oldest members of the WAC contending regularly for the conference championship. Coaches from both schools have accused each side of various episodes of poor sportsmanship over the years, and both schools have some of the nation's rowdiest home fans. The rivalry has featured some lopsided results, including a 70–14 Fresno victory over Hawaiʻi in 2004 and a 68–37 Warriors victory in 2006 over Fresno. In 2007, allegations that Fresno State fans were physically and verbally abused by hometown Hawaiʻi fans circulated the internet and television media added to this rivalry.
It was being reported that several Fresno State fans attempted to warn Boise State fans from attending Hawaiʻi football games due to potential violence against them, however no incidents were reported by Boise State fans and many photographs from Hawaiʻi-based publications covered incidents where Hawaiʻi and Boise State fans were seen mingling together before and after their 2007 game. The rivalry still continues to be one that is anticipated by both sides and continues to the present, with Fresno State having joined the Mountain West Conference in 2012, reuniting it with Hawaiʻi and other former WAC members in Nevada and Boise State.
This is one of the oldest rivalries involving Hawaii, along with the Fresno State rivalry. This rivalry is attributed to the late General Laurence S. Kuter, who was stationed on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as commander of the Pacific Air Forces. This led to the creation of the Kuter Trophy, a symbol of sportsmanship and school pride, but also the eternal friendship between the Air Force and Hawaii. The Falcons are in possession of the trophy following a 56–26 win in Honolulu in 2019.
Wyoming and Hawaii play for the Paniolo Trophy. The rivalry was renewed in 2013 after 15 years when Hawaii joined the Mountain West Conference in 2012. Because the two teams could not find the original trophy, a new trophy was modeled after a statue that stands in Waimea on the Big Island at the Parker Ranch Center. Wyoming won that game in Laramie 59–56 in overtime. Before that, the last time the two schools met was in 1997 in the old Western Athletic Conference with Wyoming winning 35–6 in Honolulu. Hawaii holds the Paniolo Trophy as they won the most recent meeting, 17–13 in Honolulu. Wyoming leads the overall series 13–9.[when?]
San Jose State
Dick Tomey Legacy Game
The two schools were each lead by legendary coach Dick Tomey who passed away in 2019. The winner of the rivalry game each year takes possession of the Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy.
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Nick Rolovich – Former head coach at Hawaiʻi (2016–2019), Washington State (2020–2021). Former Hawaiʻi quarterback (2000–01) and QB coach/offensive coordinator (2008–11). Played in the AFL (2003–2007). Former offensive coordinator/QB coach for the Nevada Wolf Pack (2012–2015).
The NCAA permits Hawaiʻi to play one more than the normal 12 games during the regular season to recoup its unusually high travel costs to and from the mainland. The team's opponents who play at Hawaiʻi each season are also allowed one more game than their normal limit. This rule was modified before the 2016 season; Hawaii is now open to play before Labor Day Weekend (during FCS Kickoff Week).
The exemption was modified to avoid a 13-game schedule with no bye weeks.
Announced schedules as of October 25, 2019. Hawaii will face New Mexico State twice during the 2021 season in an in-season home and home series.