UH athletics director: Football program not in immediate jeopardy

Just seven years after earning a spot in the storied Sugar Bowl, could the University of Hawaii football team be in danger of elimination?

On Monday, UH athletics director Ben Jay revealed to university president David Lassner and the Board of Regents that it could be a possibility if the athletics department does not get help.

The goal of Jay’s meeting was to discuss the financial situation of the department, where he explained that the athletics program ended the fiscal year with a $2.1 million deficit and projects at least a deficit of $1.5 million for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30.

Thus, Jay asked UH officials to lobby for $3 million from the state to add to their $32 million budget, a move that Jay says would end any talks of eliminating UH football.

“Are we going to pay for this program or not? I mean how important, and I put this out to the state of Hawaii, how important is UH football to the state? And we’ll find out,” Jay said. “I’m asking the state, I’m saying can you imagine the state without UH football? Because a very real possibility is that we won’t be able to fund it right.

“This university and this state has to figure out a way, are they going to support a Division 1A program from top to bottom?” Jay continued. “Everybody is going to have to pitch in to help us achieve that. We can’t expect us to win and hit our competitiveness, which is what this budget is doing to is. We’re cut to the bone. Where else can we go? I’m looking for solutions to get us out of this hole. Somebody has to do something because we can’t keep operating this way.”

“Program reduction is one of the last things that any athletics director wants to do, but to see the possibility of over 100 kids losing an opportunity to come to UH and play a sport that they love and get a great education and graduate with a degree is something that I really don’t want to contemplate, but our financial reality is what it is. We have to do something.”

The last Division 1A or FBS program that cut football was the University of Pacific 19 years ago.

In a release, Jay acknowledged that his comments were made to convey a sense of urgency and that no program reductions are currently under consideration.

“My comments at the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics’ meeting were made in order to convey a sense of urgency regarding the need to address our current funding model. In no way was I indicating that a decision on program reduction of any sport was under consideration. Rather, I was suggesting that the department’s financial situation required that all possible scenarios be reviewed. Hopefully, going forward, there will be a priority placed on discussing the future financial needs of the UH Athletics Department. President David Lassner has expressed his support and we’ll call upon our many loyal stakeholders to help us ensure that we remain competitive within the future landscape of intercollegiate athletics. We owe that to our student-athletes and passionate fans.”

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