Before they were ever known as the Rainbow Warriors, the UH football team was once called the “Deans”. This changed, however, when a rainbow appeared in the sky during a football game in 1923 where the current team, led by UH head coach Otto Klum, won 7 - 0 against Oregon State at Mo’ili’ili Field. Those who watched the game began nicknaming the football team as the Rainbows, believing they would surely win as long as a rainbow was overhead.
This was not the first time a rainbow was associated with UH. Due to the rainbow’s deep roots in Native Hawiian culture, it was first adopted in 1982 as the official logo of the UH Athletics Department where it remained until 2000.
While the rainbow became a long-standing name and logo of the team and the university, it was not until 1974 that the football team officially adopted the moniker of the Rainbow Warrior, partly in honor of a UH scholarship fund-raising organization, ‘Ahahui Koa Anuenue - the Order of the Rainbow Warrior.
In 1972 Dr. Donnis Thompson, a professor in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department, founded the first women’s athletics program. Just as the men’s program was known at the time as the “Rainbows”, the women’s program was nicknamed “Rainbow Wahine” or literally translated from Hawaiian, “Rainbow Women”.
Though the football team came to be associated with the rainbow, the general colors of UH were green and white.
The color scheme was born when a group of faculty wives were deciding on designs for the school’s social calendar. At the time, materials could take weeks to arrive to the islands on ship, forcing the wives to use only materials that were immediately available to them: standard white and green (from Hawai’i’s tropical plants).
Coincidentally, white and green colors were found to be significant in Ancient Hawaiian history
and culture. Green was the color of Lono, one of the four major gods in Hawaiian culture who represented agriculture, rain, and peace. Owing to its location in the lush Manoa valley, the campus itself embodies these values. White, on the other hand, was historically a status symbol of Hawaiian royalty.
In 2000, two new colors, black and silver, were incorporated into the color scheme. Black was chosen for its reference to the Kumulipo. The Kumulipo (“Beginning in deep darkness”) is a sacred creation chant of a family of Hawaiian chiefs, tracing their genealogy back to the beginning of the world. The silver was chosen due to its resemblance to the reflection of rainfall as mist envelops the Manoa valley and forms a rainbow.
In 2000, the UH Athletics Department released a new logo under the theme of pupukahi i holomua, “unite and move forward as one”.
On the surface, the “H” stands for Hawai’i; however, it also carries a double meaning in that it also represents the Hawaiian word, “ha”. Ha means “breath of life” and was used as a greeting in Ancient Hawai’i in which two people who exchange breaths by pressing the bridge of their noses together and inhaling, believing their ha to be a conveyor of mana, or spiritual power.
The patterns on the logo are inspired by Hawaiian kapa designs. The three triangles on each side of the H represent the body, mind, and spirit of the individual -- all of which the Native Hawaiians believed to be traits humans could not live without.