Hawaii football: quarterback Cole McDonald plans to ‘come back next year’

Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald wore some throwback UH gear exiting the team bus before playing at Boise State's Albertsons Stadium on Oct. 12. / Photo by Steven Erler, Special to the Star-Advertiser

Cole McDonald went a long way on that 76-yard touchdown run in Saturday’s 45-31 victory at New Mexico.

But Hawaii’s fourth-year junior quarterback said after practice Tuesday he has no plan — at least at this point — of going any distance from the UH roster before his senior season.

“I intend to stay in school and come back next year,” McDonald said.

Of course a lot can change between now and next spring and the NFL Draft. And at 6-feet-4 and 220 pounds, McDonald has NFL size. He is third in Division I FBS with 2,521 passing yards while completing 65.5 percent of his passes, 24 resulting in touchdowns.

The question came up only because of a hypothetical one a moment prior: Would the NCAA’s ruling today allowing college athletes to profit financially from their images and likenesses influence whether McDonald would choose to go pro or return to school?

UH’s highest-profile player said that, for him, the existence of marketing opportunities previously not available to college players would not be a factor in such a decision.

New rules addressing the subject probably won’t go into effect in time for football players deciding on the 2020 draft, anyway.

Still, whether it’s as a college or pro athlete, it’s easy to imagine McDonald, the quarterback with the golden locks, as a pitchman for the Golden Arches.


Head coach Nick Rolovich weighed in on the matter of student-athletes’ likeness compensation with media after practice on Tuesday.


  1. H-Man October 29, 2019 2:30 pm

    Yes, stay in school. But……if the NFL analysts think he can get drafted in the early rounds, then maybe enter the draft.

  2. Warrior Lifer October 29, 2019 2:57 pm

    1. It seems like this years class is pretty loaded with QB talent. Herbert, Tua, Fromm, Eason, Burrow, etc. However, maybe a team will will see his NFL size, arm strength, and speed and want to take a chance on him in the 3rd or 4th round. I remember when Colt was deciding between his senior year or going to the NFL after his junior season, and he was projected to go somewhere in like the 3rd or 4th round I believe. But he threw too many interceptions his senior season and had a poor showing against Georgia, and ultimately fell all the way to the 6th round. So can’t blame McDonald if he’s projected to go in the first 3-4 rounds next draft and decides to leave.

  3. Hank October 29, 2019 5:08 pm

    If he projects to the 3rd or fourth round at the end of the year, God Bless him, go for it. If we finish strong with a good showing in a bowl game, I think Cole will be on an NFL roster next year. He’s got the athleticism and attitude to make a team. He just needs to finish strong this year.

  4. Andrew October 29, 2019 7:56 pm

    I think the stacked QB class this year might have an affect on his decision. I also don’t think he played as well as he wanted to earlier in the year and in couple other games. I think he probably does really want to finish up school too. I think he really will be a great asset for our team next year and we are going to need it. If you think about it, we have @Arizona, UCLA, Boise State, @ Air Force, @SDSU, @Fresno State. next years schedule is brutal already. It also depends on how the conference schedules out each week with each opponent home and away. I really hope Cole does come back.

  5. Sangamon Keith October 30, 2019 3:29 am

    I doubt that Cole would be selected in the first three rounds this coming draft. I’m not even sure he would be a late round pick up. Don’t get me wrong … Cole shows flashes of great talent but he remains inconsistent. That’s enough to play regularly at a D-1 school like UH but wouldn’t make him a starter at most top ten schools. I think he needs the extra time to work on improving his command of his judgement and in-game emotions that have occasionally influenced his target selection and throwing accuracy. He’s a great player for UH and I’m glad we have him. I’m also glad he’s planning on staying and see it as a win-win for both UH and Cole.

  6. amela October 30, 2019 5:12 am

    Do you think that missing a lot of long throws are because he is afraid of throwing interceptions? He usually hit those consistently.

  7. H-Man October 30, 2019 11:16 am

    The thin air at New Mexico might have some bearing on the long throws. Well, the last game anyway.

  8. 808warriorfan October 30, 2019 2:57 pm

    3rd or 4th Round Draft Pick … stay in school … there are a lot of teams in the NFL who could use a QB as right now there are a lot of “busts” or mediocre QBs … Cole would be a guy who, if a team is willing to invest in him early, have him sit behind a starter for a few years, learn, then play … i.e. Aaron Rodgers … jmho

  9. Sam da man October 31, 2019 9:47 pm

    Justin Herbert and Cole McDonald are similar QBs. Both have the prototype NFL size, fast and have a cannon. Cole’s definitely a top 5 NFL QB prospect. He can make all the throws. Fromm and eason are overrated.

  10. connect the dots first November 1, 2019 8:07 am

    Does the author Dave Reardon know that the NCAA ruling to allow athletes to get paid for their likeness doesn’t kick in until 2023? This rule will not have any bearing on McDonald’s decision to come back to school or not next year.

  11. CUQ November 1, 2019 8:09 am

    How does he compare with other QBs on 3rd downs, red zone and critical drives/4th quarter?

  12. Dave November 2, 2019 5:38 pm

    Yes, that’s why the question is described as hypothetical. We all know the NCAA doesn’t move that fast.

  13. former D1 qb November 3, 2019 9:32 am

    lol let’s not get crazy here: i like cole but he’s not an nfl qb. he’ll be signed as a free agent at best for a training camp or tryout. he has the size, he has a decent arm, but he has bad throwing mechanics and is very inaccurate.

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