Struggling Hawaii athletics department asks for $6 million from state

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The struggles to keep the athletics department afloat at Hawaii have led the university to ask for help from the state. The asking price? Six million dollars.

Hawaii News Now reports university athletics department officials are predicting a deficit of $3.5 million this year. That would put Hawaii in the red for the 12th time out of the last 15 years. Part of the reason for the budget issue is a failure to meet football ticket sales goals as well as falling shy of fundraising goals. At a time when UAB made the decision to cut the football program from the university’s expenses, the concern is high for those at Hawaii.

“We do need additional support for athletics,” UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman told the State House Higher Education Committee Thursday, according to the Hawaii News Now report.

Earlier this month it was reported Hawaii athletics director Ben Jay was stepping down from his position. The inability to turn the budget around and slow down the deficit is part of the reason for the need to change leadership. While there are no indications Hawaii is ready to take any steps to drop its football program or any other programs, the thought and discussion has been floating around in some capacity for some time now, especially in light of the situation at UAB and with conferences bracing for changes in spending under new parameters in place.

Does aloha mean goodbye for Hawaii’s football program?

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Seven years ago, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors were 12-0 and set to play against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. That moment is the pinnacle of Warriors’ football.

Hawaii was eventually trounced by Georgia 41-10. And it’s been downhill ever since the deflating loss.

It’s reached the point where Hawaii football could cease to exist in the near future.

“There’s a very real possibility of football going away,” University of Hawaii Athletics Director Ben Jay said at a Board of Regents meeting Monday.

Since head coach Norm Chow took over the program in 2012, the Rainbow Warriors are 4-20 overall. In 2013, the team finished 1-11. And the team’s lack of competitiveness isn’t the biggest concern surrounding the program.

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.

“We’re going to have to generate more revenue,” Jay told Hawaii News Now Thursday. “There’s no doubt about that. We’ve always had to do that. People want to support football and basketball and baseball and all of our other sports, so it’s going to come down to how are we going to get that support financially from our fan base and from all the folks who love UH athletics.”

(Hat tip: KITV 4 ABC)

Hawaii continues to set eyes on Pac 12

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There area few programs that could throw another round of conference realignment in motion. It appears Hawaii hopes to be that program. Yes, Hawaii.

Hawaii Athletic Director Ben Jay along with other members of the University of Hawaii addressed a number of stakeholders and financial supporters to lay out what is referred to by the Honolulu Star Advertiser as a game plan to improve Hawaii athletics in hopes of attracting a potentially wandering eye from the Pac 12. You know, just in case the Pac 12 is interested in another round of expansion at some point.

Hawaii has long been interested in exploring a potential move to the Pac 12, and it makes sense from Hawaii’s point of view. Currently a member of the Mountain West Conference, the only realistic possibility for Hawaii to move up in competition (and compensation) would be the Pac 12. The Big 12 would never give Hawaii a call and the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and American (and others) would be beyond the point of ridiculousness when it comes to realignment. The Pac 12 may still be a dream scenario for Hawaii but the school may be a last option for the Pac 12.

If there is one thing we know about realignment it is that if the money doesn’t make sense to make a move, no move is better than making a move for the benefit of expansion. In this case, it is all about television markets and potential TV viewers. Honolulu is ranked 72nd among the top 100 TV markets, which is not exactly the most attractive to a conference like the Pac 12.

Hawaii may have some benefits to Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott‘s grand vision for the growth of the conference though. The Pac 12 is working on plans to expand the conference’s brand in to Asia. Adding Hawaii could help further that promotional cause but how much more would the mission expand by adding Hawaii compared to what it would have without the university in the islands?

This could all be an effort by Hawaii to have the university ready with a back-up plan in the event the Mountain West Conference loses any more members. Having already raided the WAC, the Mountain West managed to keep Boise State and San Diego State in the conference despite the two already committing to join the Big East. The decision to leave the Mountain West showed those schools are ready to weigh their options if they are available, so it is wise for other MWC schools to be prepared for any such realignment changes.

Hawaii may never receive an invitation to the Pac 12. Keep in mind if the Pac 12 did choose to expand, it would be likely they would prefer to do so in even numbers, which means another program would have to be worth adding as well. BYU? That ship seems to have sailed, although the Cougars remain an independent and the Pac 12 already has Utah.  Although the goal may be unreachable for Hawaii, far be it form anyone to hold them back in doing what they can to put forth their best effort. Even if Pac 12 membership never comes through, any efforts made to improve the athletics department in trying to get there can go a long way in all sports, not just football.

Go for it Hawaii. If you do not try and ask, the answer will always be no.