For the tourist, it is an island paradise, beautiful beyond description. For the player, it is an opportunity. For the coach, it is a responsibility.
Mack Brown knows that. After serving as a head coach in a number of postseason all-star games during his career, he knows the deal.
"The most important thing in these games is to let the kids show the pro scouts what they can do," Brown said after the second day of workouts in preparation for Saturday's 2003 Hula Bowl (8 p.m. CT/ESPN). "Sure, you want to win the game, but the reason we are here is to showcase the talents of the players. For some of them, it is their last and best opportunity to show folks they can play at the next level."
Kaanapali Beach is a tapestry of the best in island beauty. The white sand daily awaits an equal dose of stunning blue water and perfect sunshine. The hotels, such as the Kahana Resort are resplendent with tropical flowers and plants. Open-air concourses lead the way to exotic birds and beautiful people.
It is there that the all-stars, including UT's Lee Jackson, have come to spend an week in paradise and prepare for an interesting final exam that will be couched as a football game at a sold-out War Memorial Stadium.
The teams work out daily, and then 45 minutes is set aside for individual workouts with the host of pro scouts who have also chosen to "sacrifice" a week in the bitter cold of the mainland's mid-section to drop in at the popular haunts if the town of Lahaina, including Longi's Restaurant and the aptly named Cheeseburger in Paradise.
Brown is the head coach of the Kai (North) team, and Miami (Fla.) head coach Larry Coker is leading the Aina (South).
"One of the things that I really like about the game is the way the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) combines the staffs," Brown said. "In many of the games, you have only the high-profile Division I coaches. Here, the AFCA salutes and acknowledges the National Champion coaches from the other divisions."
On the Kai staff, a talented young coach named Brian Kelly, who led his Grand Valley State team to the NCAA Division II national title, will team with Brown and UT offensive coordinator Greg Davis to devise the offensive game plan. Jack Harbaugh, who coached Western Kentucky to the NCAA I-AA crown, will coach the offensive line.
"We're turning Brian loose, so look out," Brian quipped. "Don't be surprised at anything we do."
By the rules of the game, the offense will be limited to two formations, with no motion allowed. However, the defense is more limited, with the rules allowing only one standard defensive front.
"It is usually an offensive game," Brown said. "Our biggest responsibility will be substitutions so that we can get all of the guys on the field. They obviously are all talented, so getting them all a chance to play is a real responsibility."
Brown's defensive coordinator is R.C. Slocum, who in his time at Texas A&M was the architect of some of the greatest defenses in the country. Duane Akina, the Longhorns' assistant head coach who coaches the defensive backs, is working with Slocum.
"One of the really great things here is the opportunity to work with so many talented players from different schools and particularly to coach kids whom we have played against," Brown said.
Foremost among those is Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, who led the Raiders to dramatic victories against both Texas and A&M this past season.
"Kliff has been great," Brown said. "He is a really nice kid and extremely talented. It's good to have him on our side."
Jackson, who played almost a "rush end" position as the Longhorns' strongside linebacker, will fill a similar role for Slocum in a defense that will face a talented South squad led by Iowa QB Brad Banks.
"The heat will be a factor," Brown said. "It is 83 degrees every day and the toughest thing for me to adjust to is that it is just a different world here. I got in from meeting with NFL representatives on Monday at about 4 p.m. and looked up and we were playing Kansas in basketball on television. That takes some getting used to."
What Brown hasn't had trouble adapting to is keeping up with the Longhorns' recruiting during a critical time before National Signing Day on Feb. 5.
"We can write kids and use cell phones from here and we have a full allotment of seven assistant coaches on the road," he said.
This year's Hula Bowl is held in tandem with the NFL Pro Bowl, which will be played in Honolulu on Sunday. Among the players there is former Longhorns RB Ricky Williams, who plays for the Miami Dolphins.
"It has been great to see the TV coverage over here both for our game and the Pro Bowl," Brown said. "Ricky's been on a lot. I don't know if we'll get a chance to see him since he's on another island (Oahu), but it speaks well for our program."
Williams is only one of the famous names in football spending the week in Hawaii.
"We have had coaches and scouts and a lot of college coaching friends who have come over for this," Brown said. "Spike (Dykes) and Hayden Fry were on the selection committee for the two teams, and Dick Tomey (former Arizona coach) lives over here. Walter Abercrombie (former NFL and Baylor great) is here representing the AFCA."
Amidst a busy schedule which includes luaus, lavish meals, autograph sessions and free time generously inserted in a week of preparation of practice, Brown realizes the mandate he has been given.
"It is wonderful to work with these coaches from other divisions who have been so successful and with the players," he said. "Exchanging ideas, both with the coaches from both squads and the players who come from successful programs, is a big part, but our job is to prepare the players to put on a show. I don't know whether we are going to win or not, but we are going to make sure we take care of the kids."