1952 - 69 Rainbows
(Authentic Reproduction)




In 1952 the Riddell RT helmet, white with a one-inch green center stripe, was introduced as Hawaii’s new headgear and would remain the team design for years to follow. Henry "Hammerin’ Hank” Vasconcellos, who was highly respected for his college track career and success as a coach on the high school level, became the new head man and AD but the squad could compile no better than 5-5-2, 5-6, and 4-4 marks in his first three seasons. The 1954 schedule ended with a 50-0 loss to Nebraska that was worse than the final score indicated and his confidently named “Boom-Boom Offense” often showed a definitive lack of boom. Despite the presence of mostly local stars including QB-HB Richard Hadama who entered the program after service in the Korean War, attendance became a significant problem. As one newspaper editorial calling for the elimination of the program pointed out, a UH game drew 4000 fans on a Saturday afternoon while a fire in a downtown building attracted approximately 10,000 observers that same evening. There were complaints from players about the sub-par facilities and lack of community support. The continuing need to curtail expenses dictated a disproportionate number of home games which reduced the allure of playing for the university team, especially when the opponents were primarily local squads like the Barber's Point Club team, the Prep All-Stars, the Pearl Harbor Navy, and the semi-pro Hawaii Rams. Vasconcellos blamed the local media for undermining team morale and battled with them constantly. The embarrassing loss to Nebraska to close the '54 season had the program tottering on the brink of elimination.





The 1955 season would open with a rematch of the Nebraska and Hawaii squads. With Nebraska posted as everyone’s pre-season number-one choice, many on the Islands believed that another disastrous game against them could produce a poor season that would bring the permanent termination of the Hawaii football program. The Rainbows tuned up with a 33-7 win over the Prep All-Stars, little more than a high school squad and then they traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska as fifty-point underdogs. Team co-captain Dick Ueoka related that with a total squad of twenty-five players, "It took 9 hours for the Trans-Pacific flight, and then 8 hours to get to Lincoln. We got there and they greeted us. They gave each one of us an ear of corn. They said, 'Thanks for coming all this way for a scrimmage.' We were 50-point underdogs. We walked into the stadium and there were 100 of them, lined up in red, on one knee. They tried to intimidate us and it backfired." In what was considered one of the most significant upsets in the annals of collegiate football, Vasconcellos played seven of his eleven starters for the entire sixty minutes in ninety-five-degree temperature and twenty-six MPH winds. Behind an inspired group of blockers, including tough Charles Araki, HB Skippy Dyer who joined the University team after spending 1954 with the Hawaii Marines, ran over and through the 'Huskers and knocked down what would have been Nebraska’s winning pass attempt at his own ten-yard line. Hartwell Freitas scored the only TD of the game, and despite the extra point attempt miss by Don Botelho, the Rainbows held on to win 6-0. The game is considered by most to be the greatest victory in UH history and served to energize the fans back home. The 7-4 season saw the small squad play everyone in multiple positions and in addition to the notoriety gained from the great win over Nebraska and the courage shown by playing well all season long with such limited numbers, the team featured an inordinate number of players that went on to become highly respected teachers and coaches in Hawaii. Charles Araki, Don Botelho, Richard Hadama, Ed Kawawaki, Henry Ariyoshi, and Bill Tam became fixtures on the Islands and Araki distinguished himself as the Department Chairman of the University Of Hawaii College of Education.  


The 1956 7-3 record included losses to Iowa and Fresno State. New Orleans native Skippy Dyer and Richard Hadama completed their eligibility in ’56, with Dyer leaving school to play professional baseball. Hadama, like so many others from the Hawaii teams of the mid-1950’s, made his mark in coaching and educating young people, retiring as a long-time high school principal. Unfortunately, this would be the high water mark for victories in Vasconcellos’ last few seasons. By 1957 every Hawaii player’s white shelled helmet with green one-inch center stripe was affixed with a single or double bar mask. Don Botelho who later returned to the program as an assistant coach, saw time at QB, running back, punter, and place kicker. The highlight in the 4-4-1 season was his 95 yard touchdown pass to Colin Chock against Willamette. Botelho became an Islands legend as a high school coach, named four-time ILH Coach Of The Year and two-time State Coach Of The Year. Based upon the 51-0 Week Two loss to Kentucky and Week Three’s 47-0 pummeling from Arizona State, the predictions for the remainder of the 1958 season could have been dire. However, the Rainbows eked out an 8-7 decision over San Jose State and played well against the local teams while surprising Idaho State 40-19 to finish at 4-7. On August 21, 1959, prior to the beginning of the football season, Hawaii celebrated its official ascension to statehood as part of the United States Of America. Unfortunately, there was little to celebrate as the season wore on, Despite playing some of their traditional collegiate rivals close as the Rainbows did in their 6-0 loss to College Of The Pacific, the inclusion of more college level opponents than usual led to a disappointing 3-6 record. When 1960 ended similarly at 3-7, it left Coach Vasconcellos with an overall record of 43-46-3 and the program in financial difficulty. By early 1961, the University Of Hawaii Board Of Athletic Control, composed of President Larry Snyder, students, faculty, and alumni, voted to abolish the football program due to a lack of financing. As the start of the 1961 football season approached, a club team was organized using whatever equipment was available but no records were kept for the season, and Hawaii’s football future was very much in doubt.   


With the encouragement of new athletic director Young Suk Ko, the team was reorganized in 1962 under the stewardship of Jim Asato, a former Rainbows running back, team co-captain, and two-time MVP from 1948-'51. He was ably assisted by one of the members from the legendary ’55 squad, Don “Spud” Botelho. Still playing as an Independent, the decision was made to move to a college-level schedule by '66 to allow the team widespread exposure. Tackles Milton Hirohata and Larry Price, a local high school great who excelled while playing service football, were consistently effective for the 6-2 team that defeated Cal Western. As a "college level" team that played an independent schedule, Hawaii was always an attractive alternative for transfers because of the immediate eligibility one would have. Before making his mark at Wichita State as one of the nation's leading passers and then remaining on the Giants roster for a season, QB Henry Schichtle played one year for the Rainbows after transferring in from Coffeyville (KS) CC. The squad benefited from the leadership of Price as an older player with military experience. He teamed well with tackle Joe Kealoha and the team finished '63 at 5-5. 1964’s leading rusher was 165-pound HB Ben Ronquilio. DE Mel Tom, a transfer from San Francisco City JC looked to be a winner but left for San Jose State and then had an eight-year stint in the NFL with the Eagles and Bears. The other stalwart on the line was tackle Larry Price, a three-year captain who would become a long-time Rainbow assistant and in 1974, the head coach. The team finished at 4-5 and Asato was relieved of his duties.


The developer of the T-Formation, Clark Shaughnessy flew out to direct spring practice in 1965 while Hawaii searched for a full-time successor to Jim Asato. Although previously retired, having Shaughnessy aboard gave some prestige to the program. He was considered to be the Father Of The T-Formation and had been a success as head coach at Tulane and Loyola Of The South before taking on the job at the University Of Chicago. Less successful there due to the lack of talented players and the school's decision to de-emphasize and finally drop football, he revived the Stanford program and took them to the Rose Bowl before channeling his talents into pro football. He had been a long-time advisor to George Halas when the Bears instituted the T-Formation, and he became head coach of the LA Rams. Rightfully credited with changing the passing game in football, especially in the pros, it was Shaughnessey's offense that won a succession of world championships with the Bears and he opened up the offense with the Rams in a manner that had permanent effects on the game. He returned to the Bears as an assistant and then retired after leading the offense to the 1963 NFL Championship. He came to Hawaii to serve as a spring ball advisor, stayed for the entire ’65 season but it was a disaster at 1-8-1. Surprisingly, the offense was most deficient with Ben Ronquilio and standout tackle Larry Price the most consistent players. Shaughnessy may have completed his career on a low note but was elected to the College Football Hall Of Fame in 1968. Athletic Director Ko and Shaughnessy were both fired and once again, the program was rudderless.


Entering 1966 Bob Martin became the AD and Phil Sarboe the head coach. Sarboe was a former Washington State star who had played with the Chicago Cardinals and later coached the Cougars when they resumed football after World War II in 1945 and who had been successful at Humboldt State. When he jumped from the California school to the Rainbows, his son Joe came with him to quarterback the team with Larry Zenker who was already on board. Wayne Haley was an inviting target at WR. For the first time in history, UH played what was termed a "complete all-collegiate schedule" and would no longer play any games against local all star, club, or military squads. Unfortunately Sarboe did not stay past his one 4-6 season to continue the team's improvement and instead returned to California. For the third straight year Hawaii had a new head coach with Sarboe assistant Don King stepping in for ‘67. His 6-4 record, compiled with a roster full of JC transfers, was the best the squad had seen in years behind the leadership of QB’s Dick Hough and Larry Arnold. End Jim Schultz caught 60 passes for 956 and was thought to be of All Star quality by opposing coaches. DE Larry Cole had come in from the Air Force Academy and played well. He became the first Hawaii player to be drafted by an NFL team, departing for a lengthy career that lasted from '68 through 1980 with some of the Cowboys' best teams. He teamed with 6'7" John Hoffman, a USC transfer, at the other DE to put on a formidable pass rush. The defense was stifling, limiting opponents to single digit scoring in five of their ten contests.  


As 1968 arrived, it was “another season, another head coach!” King, in a dispute with the AD, abruptly departed and Dave Holmes arrived, giving the program direction and stability. Holmes was a high school coaching legend in the state of Washington and then took Eastern Washington University to the NAIA title game and an 11-1 record, leaving them with their all-time best winning percentage. The UH players responded to the new regime with solid play. QB Larry Arnold threw for 1971 yards and twenty-one TD's, the latter a record that stood for twenty-two seasons. Fifty-one of those receptions went to flanker Rich Leon, while TE McKinley Reynolds was a presence. HB Emory Holmes carried the rushing load. LB Tim Buchanan had transferred in from Arizona State and played effectively before getting to stick with the Bengals in '69. Another defensive standout was Island star John Hoffman who had started at USC, transferred back to Hawaii and had an itinerant four-year NFL career with the Redskins, Bears, Cards, and Broncos before starring in the WFL with the Southern California Sun. Hawaii jumped to a 7-3 mark. FB Bill Massey led the charge in ‘69, averaging seven yards per carry for 872 yards behind guard Jim Kalili while QB Arnold kept the defenses honest with 1378 passing yards. Arnold’s career passing yardage of 3329 was a new school record. Holmes continued his fine coaching with a 6-3-1 record, the offense catching fire in mid-season with fifty-seven, fifty-two, and forty-one point explosions in three consecutive games.

If interested in any of these Hawaii helmets please click on the photos below.