Provo • More than three weeks after accepting a bid to play in the 18th annual SoFi Hawaii Bowl, BYU has finally learned its opponent.
The Cougars will face the hometown team of Hawaii at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu on Dec. 24 at 6 p.m.
“The University of Hawaii has enjoyed a tremendous season and we are thrilled the Rainbow Warriors accepted an invitation to play BYU,” SoFi Hawaii Bowl Executive Director Daryl Garvin said.
The Rainbow Warriors are coming off a tough 31-10 loss against Boise State in the Mountain West championship game, but finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak. Overall, Hawaii finished the season 9-5.
BYU’s five-game winning streak was snapped with a 13-3 loss in the regular season finale to San Diego State on Nov. 30. The Cougars took a few days off before starting practices again.
It will be BYU’s 37th bowl appearance, dating back to the 1974 Fiesta Bowl, and its first time in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl. The Cougars have gone bowling in 14 of the last 15 seasons.
For the Rainbow Warriors, it will be the 13th bowl appearance and ninth in the current Hawaii Bowl. They also played in the 1989 Aloha Bowl and 1999 Oahu Bowl.
Former Western Athletic Conference rivals, BYU and Hawaii will play against each other for the 32nd time in a series that dates back to 1930. The Rainbow Warriors joined the WAC in 1978 and then faced BYU in 22 of the next 25 seasons.
BYU leads the series 23-8 and holds a 13-8 edge in Hawaii.
There's also a deeper connection between both programs than a former conference rivalry.
Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich was the Rainbow Warriors’ quarterback the last time they beat BYU in 2001. Rolovich threw a school-record eight touchdown passes against the Cougars, which spoiled BYU’s 12-game winning streak.
“BYU at Aloha Stadium on Christmas Eve — there may not be a better combination for Hawaii fans,” Rolovich said.
Born in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, BYU coach Kalani Sitake spent his youth growing up on the North Shore of Hawaii before moving to Provo.
Sitake has coached 10 bowl games in his career and has won nine of those matchups, including going 2-0 as a head coach at BYU.
Last year, the Cougars routed Western Michigan 49-18 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and beat Wyoming 24-21 in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl.
“Hawaii is a really good team and I’m looking forward to the matchup,” Sitake said. “I have tons of respect for Nick Rolovich and his entire coaching staff. I love the way they play the game. It will be an honor for us to take the field with them at Aloha Stadium.”