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Aloha Stadium’s Opening Night

The September 14, 1975 headline of the Sunday Honolulu Star-Bulletin & Advertiser summarized Aloha Stadium’s opening night perfectly: “Stadium off and running, but UH Rainbows aren’t.”

The night before, in front of 32,247 fans, the University of Hawaii football team fell to Texas A&I in the first-ever game played at the 50,000-seat stadium.

The pregame festivities were filled with hope and promise. The feared traffic jam to the stadium never materialized. Hawaii’s Ambassador of Aloha, the great Danny Kaleikini, sang the national anthem and “Hawaii Ponoi.” Beatrice Burns, the widow of Gov. John A. Burns, made an appearance. (The late governor was a key advocate for the construction of the $32-million stadium. He passed away in April of 1975, just five months before the stadium opened to the public.)

And then the game started, and the night sort of went downhill from there.

The visitors from Kingsville, Texas struck early and often. In their second possession of the game, Javelin running back George Franklin bullied his way for a two-yard score – the first touchdown ever scored at Aloha Stadium. Franklin would later add a 17-yard TD and an 88-yard kickoff return for another score.

Hawaii got its first score of the game in the third quarter, when QB Alex Kaloi scampered into the endzone from two yards out. Curtis Goodman booted the extra point. Moments later, Franklin fell on the ball after a fumble and was tackled for a Hawaii safety.

Still, the damage was done. Final score: Texas A&I 43, Hawaii 9.

After the game, UH head coach Larry Price remarked, “I might have been interested in winning this one a little more [because of the stadium opening], but I want to win every [game]. There are no excuses. We showed signs of brilliance, but they outplayed us.”

Marveled A&I running back Larry Collins: “This is the greatest stadium I’ve played in.”

Stadium officials had little time to rest after the game. The next day, the World Football League’s Hawaiians would host the Jacksonville Express.

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Newsworthy events that happened on the same day as the opening of Aloha Stadium: Muhammad Ali appeared at the Kahala Hilton to promote his “Thrilla in Manila” fight against rival Joe Frazier. U.S. Representatives Patsy Mink and Spark Matsunaga blasted President Gerald Ford’s economic policies. And the Hawaii Islanders were still celebrating their first-ever Pacific Coast League championship – won at the final event held at the old Honolulu Stadium.