New University of Hawaii head football coach Nick Rolovich, 36, used the example of the many times he’s watched a Disney movie with his children to make a point of where he wants to lead the Rainbow Warrior football program back to a winning tradition.
Speaking at his introductory press conference Monday, he likened the team and program to “The Lion King’s” Pride Rock. “We were great once, we can be great again. We are all Simba.”
Rolovich was greeted with warm applause when he entered the room to meet staff and press for the first time as the school’s head football coach.
He first thanked a large group of people — former teammates, coaches and his Maui-born wife and four children — for making him the man he is today. He thanked his former UH teammates for reminding him that he “was meant to be a Warrior and made me want to be here today.” He thanked coach Brian Polian of Nevada, and former UH head football coaches June Jones, Greg McMackin and Norm Chow for their help and guidance.
Rolovich saved his final thanks to his family who helped him learn what “aloha” was when he first arrived in Hawaii back in 2000 — “to treat people right, care about people, and respect the place where I am at the moment.”
He remembered walking out of Aloha Stadium on Senior Night and said he wants his players to experience what he did that night. “It’s a special place when it’s rocking,” he said, and emphasized he wants “the kids in the program to make the community better — living aloha and playing Warrior — and get back to our winning tradition.”
When asked how he was different compared to when he left the islands, Rolovich stated that “I never left in my heart. I learned a lot about recruiting and a different offensive scheme” but more importantly that “aloha works here and everywhere. You treat people right and being from Hawaii helped me on the mainland.
“I believe I would be back. I belonged here,” he said, and added that he feels “there’s a want to be great again and it’s my job to get that done.”
Rolovich’s plan for the UH football program
As for the particulars of the job, local recruitment starts this week and he said he’ll put together his coaching staff in due time. “It’s better to get right guys than quick guys,” wanting them to be “men of aloha” and be counselors and role models for the players.
As an offensive coordinator for Nevada, Rolovich often visited Hawaii to recruit players. “There’s good talent in the state,” he told KHON2. “The best part about a local player is their mindset, is their toughness, is their ability to be unselfish. It’s how they’re raised and the Polynesian explosion of players is all over the country… It’s not just their physical tools, it’s their values that make them a positive impact on teams.”
Rolovich says he will search for those intangibles in his own players.
Rolovich says the most pertinent task is building a culture among the current ‘Bows, then bring in a new crop in the class of 2016. He will stay in Hawaii through the week before hitting the road to recruit.
“There’s a lot to do. I’m excited for it, I’m ready for it. I’m ready to roll,” he said.
As for decision-making, Rolovich says he’d like to be aggressive. “I want to be able to evaluate the talent we have. I want to give this team the best chance they can to win. I think going to Nevada gave me a much wider range of offensive ability. We have to do what’s best for these players this year… I think we’ve got to work to the best of our ability of our talents of our players we have now, and then recruit to the scheme we want to be.”
Matlin on Rolovich: ‘We got the guy’
UH athletics director David Matlin described the search for the university’s next coach as a quick, but tiring process.
But in the end, Matlin said, “We got the guy. Dick Tomey told me, I spoke to him a few times in the last month, and he said ‘When you know, you’ll know.’ After I met with him in person, the second time after the interview, I knew.”
Matlin called Rolovich’s plan impressive: “You don’t put that plan together in a week. You put that together in years and years of preparation.”
Matlin said when he broke the news to the team last week, “You saw a lift in everyone. They seemed excited. I’m excited for our staff and our department,” he said. “People like Nick and respect Nick and people are happy he’s back here. People are going to support him in our department. You can see it already. That’s so incredible.”
Contract and salary details
Matlin says Rolovich will be making $400,008 for the first two years of his contract, then $425,004 for the next two years, with a fifth-year trigger at approximately $450,000 if he leads the team to a bowl game.
He’ll also get up to $15,000 for relocation, a car, if available, and clothes and shoes for him and his coaching staff. The department also built in additional funding for assistant coaches, Matlin added.
In comparison, former Rainbow Warriors coach Norm Chow had a base salary of $550,000, while Greg McMackin was paid $1.1 million a year.
“I think it’s a very good compensation plan that makes sense,” Matlin said. “A lot of his compensation upside is for goal-aligned incentives. So yeah, you can see that’s a modest payout in terms of the NCAA Division I head football coaches.”
That includes up to $80,000 if his team wins the conference championship game, and up to $1 million if they win the national championship.
Conversely, a buyout by the university in the fourth year would cost $150,000.
The university has had a string of costly buyouts and settlements, including Chow, McMackin and former men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold. Matlin says Rolovich’s contract was vetted by the university’s legal counsel.
Matlin says the university released Rolovich’s salary in order to be more transparent. The university issued the following statement:
“Athletics is an important part of the University of Hawaii’s core mission of education, and the University is pleased that Coach Rolovich agreed to bring his talents, background and reputation to the Manoa campus. Coach Rolovich appreciates the University maintaining his personal privacy and the general public’s understanding. Coach Rolovich has therefore decided to disclose the exact amount of his salary under his current employment agreement with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.”
State Sen. Sam Slom says UH officials are moving in the right direction by sharing the contract details.
“We never had that before. We had to dig for it and pull for it, so I think those are good steps,” he told KHON2. “They are trying to meet the legislature and the public at least halfway, and that’s a positive sign.”
Can UH football bounce back?
University officials responsible for selling season tickets and parking are optimistic the community will rally behind the program.
Ahahui Koa Anuenue’s president and CEO Jon Kobayashi said “last year, we were kind of at a low (with) 15,000 season tickets sold, so our hope is certainly to better that next year.”
Football season ticket sales peaked in 2008, after the Sugar Bowl, at around 26,500 seats and have declined every year since.
Because of the renewed interest in Rainbow Warrior football, the athletics department is now accepting $50 non-refundable deposits for new season tickets. The $50 deposit will be applied to fans’ new football season-ticket purchases.
Current 2015 football season-ticket holders do not need to place a deposit. Season ticket renewal information will be sent in March. During the season ticket renewal process, current season ticket holders will be given the opportunity to request for seat relocations and/or additional seats.
HEAD FOOTBALL COACH NICHOLAS ROLOVICH’S TERMS**
**Subject to execution of binding contract
Term: 4 year appointment – November 30, 2015 to November 29, 2019
Annual Base Salary:
Salary Range for Head Football Coach is $392,142 to $935,544
(See *Authorized Statement of Salary Information for Head Coach Nicholas Rolovich”)
Buyout by the University, i.e. termination without cause:
- In 4th Year $150,000
- In 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year: remainder of contract base salary amount, with 4th Year amount limited to $150,000
Buyout by the Coach:
$150,000 in any year of the agreement
5th year: If team participates in a bowl game in Year 1 or 2 of this contract, the appointment period will be extended by one (1) year with an annual base salary in the range for Head Football Coach of $392,142 to $935,544. (See “Authorized Statement of Salary Information for Head Football Coach Nicholas Rolovich.”) 4th Year buyout provisions ($150,000) shall apply.
Relocation: Up to $15,000 ($8,000 from the University; $7,000 from UH Foundation (Na Koa) subject to availability of funds)
Family Travel: Upon the Athletics Director’s prior written approval, Coach may designate Coach’s spouse or one (1) child to accompany Coach on every away or neutral site regular season game each year at the expense of the UH Foundation subject to availability of funds.
If the team participates in a bowl game, Coach’s spouse and minor children shall be allowed to accompany Coach at the expense of the UH Foundation (subject to availability of funds) or post-season sponsor.
Courtesy Car: One (1) courtesy car, if available.
Apparel: Upon the Athletic Director’s prior written approval, Coach may be provided access to equipment, apparel and shoes that are part of a University approved agreement with a third-party vendor to supply the football coaching staff, support staff, camp participants, with said equipment, apparel and shoes, and to fulfill other program related needs.
A. Conference Achievements. These bonuses under this Subsection A are cumulative.
i. Team Wins the West Division of the MWC and Participates in the MWC Championship game $40,000
ii. Team Wins the Conference Championships $80,000
B. Bowl Game Achievements. It is understood that Coach shall receive only one (1) incentive payment under this Subsection B per contract year, which shall be based on the highest achieved.
i. Team Participates in a Bowl Game (Payable only if no Conference Achievements in Subsection A are earned) $20,000
ii. Team Wins a Bowl Game $40,000
iii. Team Participates in a Non-Playoff New Year’s Six Bowl Game $300,000
iv. Teams Wins Non-Playoff New Year’s Six Bowl Game $500,000
v. Team Participates in Four-Team Playoff Bowl Game $850,000
vii. Team Wins National Championship $1,000,000
C. Coach of the Year Achievements. These bonuses under Subsection C are cumulative and apply in full if any such award is solo or shared.
i Conference Coach of the Year $20,000
ii. National Coach of the year (Eddie Robinson, Sporting News, Walter Camp, Bobby Dodd, Woody Hayes, Paul “Bear” Bryant, George Munger, Home Depot, AP, Liberty Mutual, Bobby Bowden) $80,000
D. Academic Progress Rate (APR) Achievements. It is understood that Coach shall receive only one (1) incentive payment under Subsection D per year, beginning with the results of the 2015-2016 academic year, which shall be based on the highest goal achieved.
i. Single year APR of 960 or greater $20,000
ii Single year APR of 980 or greater $40,000