Robert Kekaula passed away this weekend.
The University of Hawaii football team has lost its announcer, but college football has lost one of the sport’s greatest cult figures. The fact that you knew Robert Kekaula was a good indicator of what kind of football fan you are.
Many college football fans only watch the sport when their team is playing. Some are only interested in matches involving ranked teams or major conference schools. Unless they live in Hawaii, these people may not have known who Robert Kekaula was.
For another type of college football fan, Kekaula was a mascot. Some of us are college football junkies. We consume as much sport as humanly possible, even though it is a game that is not particularly good by conventional standards. We watch the Tuesday night MAC games, the Thursday night ACC Coastal games between Duke and Pitt, and the 10am EST kickoff between UNLV and Nevada on a Friday night. The biggest indicator of whether or not someone is a true college football junkie is the number of nights per season they spend streaming Hawaii Football shows with Robert Kekaula on the Spectrum Sports app.
We only have 15 days a year that are wall-to-wall filled with the best sport in the world, and there is so much going on on a fall Saturday that it’s often too hard to digest. As you tried to remember all the results of the day and how they changed the national championship and conference title races, there was something soothing about watching the final game of the slate take place on the island.
When you love college football in its purest form, every Saturday is like Christmas. As the prime-time gaming drama drew to a close, Kekaula was there with another unopened gift. That the clock could turn to Sunday in the Eastern Time Zone at the same time a game started in the late afternoon sun on the Big Island has always been kind of magic. Robert Kekaula was the narrator of it all.
He was there to make sure college football’s last call was a happy one, gently guiding your twelve-hour buzz towards the tarmac. Did you need a friend to help you with things after watching your team lose a close game overnight? Kekaula was there with an “Aloha” and a smile, wishing us all a pleasant evening. Did you have a bad game day? Kekaula on screen meant one more chance to get back to normal and avoid paying your bookie on Monday.
What made it even better was that Kekaula himself was representative of why we love the sport as a whole. He was eccentric and uniquely regional. The man looked like Cookie Monster, and his announcing style was marked by a unique cadence that came out in bursts. Her wardrobe was immaculate.
Kekaula was the type of character who would never come within a thousand miles of an NFL broadcast booth, but he was perfectly comfortable on the Spectrum Sports app and perfectly suited to our sport. Like any good fan, Kekaula had contempt for his team’s rivals. He once signed a show in Fresno State with the line, “and America’s armpit …”
As more and more college football fans took to Twitter and message boards throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Kekaula’s cult grew. Hawaii Football has become the fireplace around which the sport has gathered to discuss the day’s events on Twitter. Folks in Reddit’s college football community, r / CFB, have dubbed it “The Hawaii Test.” If there is ever a contributing section in the College Football Hall of Fame, Kekaula deserves high consideration.
Kekaula was at his best when Hawaii scored points and threw them all over the field. Originally from Hawaii, he was a shameless homer. Behind the mic of years Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan, Kekaula will forever be a part of the unique slice of college football history that was the June Jones era of Hawaii football. Sometimes you would log in just to relax in the second trimester, but other times the Midnight Game delivered a thriller.
What made it all even more fun was that Kekaula seemed to understand the niche he filled for us diehards. He was responding to fan tweets, and he always seemed really excited to share his love for Hawaii with anyone who was willing to listen.
The State of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii have lost two legends this offseason. First with the death of Brennan and now with the loss of Kekaula. Football will continue to be played at midnight on the Big Island, but it will be different without Kekaula behind the microphone. Despite his absence, we will listen and do our best to have a pleasant evening. Robert Kekaula wouldn’t want it any other way.