Originally created 11/27/02

Tide thinking business first, then pleasure on Hawaii trip

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Justin Smiley, a 300-pound guard, is worried about squeezing into an airplane seat for 11 hours. Jarret Johnson really wants to ride a horse on the beach.

Alabama coach Dennis Franchione just hopes his players won't get sidetracked by beaches, luaus or other island diversions before Saturday night's game at Hawaii.

"This game's certainly not a day at the beach," Franchione said.

No, coach, the beach trip is Sunday.

The 14th-ranked Crimson Tide (9-3) is making its first regular-season trip to the island of Ohau. Its last visit was for the 1985 Aloha Bowl, a 24-3 win over USC.

Franchione has coached at Hawaii twice, leading New Mexico (1994) and TCU (1999) to victories. Overcoming potential distractions is part of the trip, he said.

"It's going to be important for us to handle the trip well," Franchione said. "It's going to be important that we get down to business at the right time and get focused on the things that we need to get focused on at the right time."

The team is scheduled to leave Tuscaloosa about 3 a.m. Thursday after having Thanksgiving dinner together the night before and arrive on the island 11 or 12 hours later, heading straight to Aloha Stadium for a quick practice.

The team flies back Monday evening.

"The hour-long flight to Baton Rouge was tough enough for me," Smiley said. "I can't imagine a 12-hour flight. I'm going to have to have a cocktail to chill me out. I don't know really how to handle that."

Center Alonzo Ephraim, no fan of flying, knows exactly how he'll cope.

"Pray, pray, pray," he said. "When we first get up in the air, I'm just going to have to close my eyes and just brace myself and pray."

On Friday morning, they'll visit the Pearl Harbor Exhibit. After that, Franchione expects focus to turn to the game and a Warriors team that has won six straight games and nine straight at home.

"Up until Saturday, everybody needs to have the mindset to take care of business," tailback Shaud Williams said. "But I think after that we can relax and let our guard down and enjoy the sights of Hawaii and just enjoy the trip."

Offensive tackle Wesley Britt is one of the few Tide players who have been to Hawaii before. He's been twice with his family, and his mother graduated from high school there because her father was in the military.

He worries that the island setting "could be a huge distraction."

"First and foremost, we've got to win the football game," Britt said.

Alabama also wants to avoid the postgame melee that marred the Hawaii-Cincinnati game last weekend.

Players from both teams had to be separated by police after a five-minute scuffle following Hawaii's 20-19 win at home on Saturday night.

Cincinnati athletic director Bob Goin questioned Hawaii's crowd-control policies, but Franchione said he hasn't had any game management problems in his previous trips to Hawaii.

"Our administration's looked at it and made sure we are prepared for anything," he said. "That's not something that's common. Their fans are good football fans. They get into the game and get excited and enthusiastic about supporting their football team when they do well.

"I've never seen that side of it. We don't want to throw one incident into a bigger case than it probably deserves."

Franchione said Hawaii's fans aren't as close to the field as those at Oklahoma but are closer than at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Smiley, for one, was pretty impressed with the postgame scene.

"It was pretty awesome. That's right up my alley," he said.

But, he added, "We're not going to get into any fights. We're going to be ready for a fight - on the field, of course."

TIDE BITS: Asked if he was willing to guarantee he'd be back at Alabama next season, Franchione said, "I have never wavered on that. It's been my full intention. Nothing's really changed. I have a great contract, and nothing's changed since Friday." ... Defensive tackle Kenny King has been cleared to play Saturday after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. He was held out of the Auburn game as a precaution ... Alabama is the first SEC team to play at Hawaii since Tennessee in 1975 ... Mark Tommerdahl is the lucky assistant who gets to stay and recruit the islands. Another six coaches have to fly back Saturday night after the game.


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