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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Kauha'aha'a joining Utah State staff

ife is moving at lightning speed for Chad Kauhaahaa.

The 1991 Baldwin High School graduate - and Bears head football coach from 2002 to 2004 - found out Sunday night that he landed a job at Utah State to be the Aggies' defensive line coach.

Kauhaahaa, who was a starting defensive end for a Western Athletic Conference championship team at Utah in 1995 before graduating from that school in 1996, is believed to be the first Mauian to land a football coaching job for an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) school.

He has been the defensive line coach for Weber State for the past four seasons and the Wildcats just finished a 10-4 season that included a Big Sky Conference title and a run to the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) quarterfinals. The Wildcats' season ended Saturday with a 24-13 loss at Montana and when Kauhaahaa arrived home on Sunday, he hammered out the details of his move to Logan to join the Aggies' staff under new Utah State coach Gary Andersen.

''I am extremely excited about this opportunity to get to move on to the D-I level,'' Kauhaahaa said Monday via phone. ''This is what I left Maui for. I gave myself a timeline - I gave myself five years and I was fortunate to land it this year. It is not only big for myself, but for my family.''

Kauhaahaa admits he doesn't know much about Logan.

''You know what, I am going to find out tomorrow what Logan is all about,'' he said. ''I heard it is about an hour and 20 minutes away. It is a little bit further up north, but that is what I have got to do - find out more about it. It is further north, so there is more snow and it is colder, so that may not be very smart for a Kihei guy like me. But I have got to take what is there. The great thing about Utah State is there is a nice indoor facility, so hopefully coach Andersen puts us in there when it is too cold.''

In his first interview about the new job, Kauhaahaa said he needed to tell his team before talking to any media. He hadn't planned on talking to the media this soon.

''You know what, this is the first day and I wanted to break it to the team first,'' he said. ''I spoke to my Hawaii recruits and everything has been real positive.''

Kauhaahaa said he hadn't even spoken to lifelong friend Jimmy Morimoto, currently the director of football operations at Nevada-Las Vegas and the man who succeeded Kau-haahaa at Baldwin.

''I haven't spoken to anybody just yet,'' he said. ''I had to keep this hush, hush. The whole coaching deal you have got to keep things quiet because you don't want anything to leak out. We were coaching in the postseason, so basically we wanted to keep everything quiet.''

One of the first Weber State players to approach Kauhaahaa after Monday's team meeting was Cody Nakamura, a standout wide receiver at Baldwin who just finished his junior season for WSU. Nakamura, now a tight end, finished his season with 48 receptions for 729 yards and a team-best 10 touchdown grabs. Nakamura was a second-team all-Big Sky selection.

''That was real positive,'' Kauhaahaa said. ''Cody came by and spoke to me and he was real happy. He knows what my goals are. Cody took it well and he wished me the best of luck.''

Nakamura had a break out campaign in 2008 after catching just 10 passes for 71 yards in his first two seasons.

''Oh yeah, Cody had a great season, but you know what, it will be even better next year,'' Kauhaahaa said. ''He was second-team all-conference this year when he should have been first team. In my position and with my recruits, I am leaving a solid foundation here - better than when it started, much smoother for the next guy to get things done. Cody is a big part of that.''

Kauhaahaa is one of three assistants to leave Weber State after its stellar season. He has been building a relationship with Andersen, who took over for a fired Brent Guy after a 3-9 season. Kauhaahaa and Andersen both played at Utah under current Weber head coach Ron McBride. Andersen came to Utah State from the Utah staff.

''Coach Andersen played for coach Mac and then worked for coach Mac at Utah,'' Kauhaahaa said. ''He is a Utah grad like myself and a Ron McBride product. He has worked at Utah under Kyle Whittingham and Urban Meyer. They all go back to Idaho State - they are really close.''

Kauhaahaa has a staff meeting in Logan on Wednesday and hopes to be at Aloha Stadium for a postseason all-star game Friday.

''I think Gary Andersen is the perfect fit (for Utah State),'' Kauhaahaa said. ''He is a Utah guy, his number one goal is to recruit Utah first. I think it is the right place to be successful. The facilities are beautiful, brand new. Recruiting-wise that is a huge selling point.

''There are good players there already. We have to make sure we recruit even better players. These guys really showed some signs they could be good. Now it is our turn to turn the corner.''

Kauhaahaa said it is all in his life game plan.

''When I was head coach at Baldwin, I wanted to be a college coach,'' he said. ''When I was at Weber, I wanted to be a D-I coach. After I get settled in at Utah State, we will see what that next goal is.''

This move appears to close the possibility of Kauhaahaa returning to Maui any time soon. He is in the fourth year of a five-year leave of absence from the state Department of Education, a window that shuts next year.

''You never know because a lot of things can happen in a year - this is college football,'' he said. ''Right now my goal is to be the best D-line coach I can be at Utah State. It is a great opportunity and I am grateful for Gary Andersen giving me a shot. I really believe that with the staff he is putting together, I think we are going to do well. We are not going to come in there with the goal to win a few games. Our first year we want to be bowl eligible.''

Kauhaahaa said he will keep the same recruiting areas he had for Weber - Hawaii, Los Angeles, Alaska and Dallas. He confirmed he is recruiting more than one player from Maui.

''I am fired up, man,'' he said. ''Excited for the new challenge and that I will continue to recruit the kids from Hawaii. The WAC is what I grew up with and played in, so I definitely know the WAC. A couple other WAC schools recruit Hawaii players, but I think I have a little advantage because, shucks, I am a Hawaii guy.''

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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