Aloha Bowl organizers sport Md. connection Husband-wife team gives Baltimore touch to game

December 24, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

HONOLULU -- Klompus & Klompus sounds like a high-priced law firm.

Actually, Marcia and Lenny Klompus, formerly of Silver Spring, are the executive director and chief executive officer, respectively, of the Aloha Bowl, which will pit Navy against California tomorrow.

And how did this Maryland couple find its way to Hawaii and become guardian angels of the Aloha Bowl?

"Believe it or not," said Lenny, who was born in Baltimore, "it all started with a sports brief I saw in The Baltimore Sun back in 1978. "It said that a man named Mackay Yanagisawa was going to start the Pineapple Bowl in Hawaii, and that kind of intrigued me."

In the early 1970s, Klompus, 47, had become involved in radio and television production and marketing sponsorships at the University of Maryland, his alma mater.

Klompus followed the Terps to appearances at the Peach, Gator and Cotton bowls while increasing their exposure in the Baltimore-Washington market. Getting involved in the Pineapple Bowl sounded like an especially ripe idea.

"I wrote a letter to Mr. Yanagisawa and asked him if he needed some support launching his game," he recalled. "At the time, I didn't know what a great promoter the man was. He was known as the shogun of Hawaii sports. He got Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to tour the island in the '30s, initiated the Pro Bowl and Hula Bowl and built Aloha Stadium."

Yanagisawa welcomed the Klompuses aboard. However, the Pineapple Bowl would never come to fruition in its original form. But in 1981, Yanagisawa signed Aloha Airlines as a sponsor, giving birth to the Aloha Bowl.

"Mr. Yanagisawa had health problems that year, and asked us to run the event," Klompus said. "We had a selection committee to choose the competing teams, but ultimately I was the one to make the final decision."

It may be the easiest one he has made in the past 15 years.

"Naturally, I chose Maryland and Boomer Esiason," he said. "The Terps finished second that year in the ACC, and we matched them against Washington, runners-up in the Pac-10."

It turned out to be a great game. Esiason and the Huskies' Jim Cowan combined to throw 88 passes for 620 yards and five touchdowns. Washington scored with six seconds left to win, 21-20, because Jess Atkinson missed his first extra point.

Two years later, Klompus gave the Aloha Bowl major credibility by getting Notre Dame to accept an invitation to play SMU.

"It was only the second non-New Year's Day bowl game Notre Dame had played in at that time," he said, recalling SMU's 27-20 upset.

When Aloha Airlines ended its support after the inaugural game, Jeep-Eagle took over and now boasts the longest run as a bowl sponsor.

For the first five years, the Klompuses divided their time between Maryland and Hawaii. But in 1986, they settled in Honolulu, promoting both the Aloha and Hula bowls.

"Marcia knows more about sports than I do," he said. "It's in her blood. She's a niece of Shirley Povich, sports editor emeritus of the Washington Post. She's a great organizer, and she's the glue that keeps the Aloha Bowl together."

Klompus still gets homesick.

"All my aunts and uncles still live in Baltimore," he said. "We have a family reunion every year, and I'm earning a lot of frequent-flier points.

"Living here, I miss the change of seasons and, of course, eating crabs. And when I get buried, I'm sure it will be in the family plot in Baltimore."

Aloha Bowl

Navy (8-3) vs. California (6-5)

Site: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

When: Tomorrow, 3: 30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 2/WITH (1230 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

The line: California by 1

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