Is there support for a Division 1 sports program at UH?

With the University of Hawaii Athletic Department facing another budget deficit, questions are being raised. Does the UH want a Division 1 program, and if so, is the community willing to pay for it?

If the UH Athletic Department cannot fix its mounting deficit, Athletic Director Ben Jay is warning that all scenarios are possible.

One of the possibilities includes jeopardizing athletic programs, like football.

With the first game of the football season coming in less than two weeks, attention is also being paid to the bottom line for the entire athletic department.

After an analysis of possible solutions, it may come down to making the case for help to lawmakers as well as to the community.

“Your revenue with tickets, your revenue with television, your revenue with boosters, that’s how you do things,” said Rainbow Warrior Head Football Coach Norm Chow. “We just need to support these guys, they deserve better.”

Even with all those sources of revenue for the athletic department, and most of it comes from football, it is still not enough to cover yet another projected deficit at year’s end for the entire athletic program at the University of Hawaii.

“This program – football – makes money, but not enough to cover everything else,” said Chow. “But those decisions are not to be made by us. Our job is to coach football “

Athletic Director Ben Jay recently sounded the alarm, and next year the legislature will hear his call for $3 million dollars to prevent the program from drowning again in red ink.

The man who will help spearhead that drive for the university’s Board of Regents put it this way, “It’s the taxpayers, through the legislature,” said Jeffrey Portnoy, a member of the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents. “Now, whether the community has the will to do that, whether the legislature believes that’s an appropriate place to put taxpayer dollars, I certainly don’t know.”

The athletic department has been looking at other sources of revenue like tuition hikes, student athletic fee hikes, a new deal with Aloha Stadium, money from the Mountain West Conference, and more corporate donations. But they are either not enough or not going to happen. Jay says those who have donated directly to athletics in the past also need to change the way they view their support of the program.

“The culture here coming in seems to be that the thought is really about buying the ticket packages from AKA, or buying the preferred parking and really not much more than that – in their eyes, they are donating to the university,” said Jay.

Coach Chow not only wants the community to give more financial support to UH athletics, he actually wants to see more people in the stands watching and cheering all the athletes with the University of Hawaii.

“You go to other places, Oregon, Oregon State, Eastern Oregon, Western Oregon, but here it’s the University of Hawaii,” said Chow. “Why not support these people?”

“I just consider it a reality check,” said Portnoy. “Does the community want the UH to have a Division 1 program? I hope and wish they do – then you got to pay your bills.”

Portnoy says that while the legislature may want the University of Hawaii to look at what money it has on hand now to help the athletic department, President David Lassner has stated that he will not do that, because he must deal with other competing interests throughout the university system.

KHON2 will continue to track the athletic department’s attempts to deal with its financial troubles and whether the state legislature will come to the rescue when it convenes its session in January.

 

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