More than a few eyebrows were raised yesterday when, at a Board of Regents meeting Monday, Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay was quoted as saying that “[t]here’s a very real possibility of football going away.”
According to Jay, the university’s athletic program will operate at a $2.1 million deficit this season and it has done so 11 of the past 13 years. Football is easily the most revenue-producing of all the sports, but it also eats through the most money. Add in the uncertain impact autonomy will have on all FBS football programs, and there’s a sense of trepidation throughout the schools in non-Power Five conferences.
A short time after those comments went public, however, Jay attempted to cram the toothpaste back from whence it came.
In a statement released by the university very late Monday night, Jay appears to claim his reported comments were taken out of context
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.
“A very real possibility of football going away” is quite a long ways from “[i]n no way was I indicating that a decision on program reduction of any sport was under consideration,” but it’s Jay’s story and I’m sticking to that.