Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Friend says FrazierOliver Robinson is familiar with Hawaii. The former San Antonio Spur played basketball here for the University of Alabama at Birmingham against the University of Hawaii in 1979.
would be good fit
But there are some whoFrazier closes in on job
hold the UAB athletics director
accountable for a $7.5-million deficit
By Dave Reardon
He said his friend, Herman Frazier, the top candidate for UH athletics director, can fit right in in the islands.
Frazier is meeting with UH officials today, and several sources say he is very close to becoming the retiring Hugh Yoshida's replacement.
Frazier's less-than-two-year tenure as athletics director at UAB has been less than smooth, but Robinson said circumstances -- not Frazier -- are responsible for the Blazers athletics department's $7.5 million deficit.
"I think he's done an admirable job under the circumstances," Robinson said. "I would really hate to see him go because I bleed green and gold, but I think Hawaii would be a wonderful situation for him. I hope it comes to fruition."
Robinson, now an Alabama state legislator, calls Frazier "The Jackie Robinson of athletics directors in Alabama," because he is the first African-American to attain such a post in the state. He would also be UH's first black athletics director.
Birmingham has come a long way since the "Bombingham" days of the civil rights struggles in the 1960s. But Robinson said it was still difficult for Frazier.
"He plowed some ground and it was a gutsy choice by (then UAB president) Dr. Ann Reynolds," Robinson said. "But this is still the South."
Also, fund-raising for UAB can be difficult because it is probably the third most popular athletics program in its own city, Robinson said.
"When they decided they wanted football, in a state where Auburn and Alabama are already king, all you can do is deal with it the best you can," he said. "To generate income in a city where two other schools are already fighting over the corporate leaders, that's a challenge. Half's wearing the blue and orange and half's wearing the crimson and white, and there's nowhere for the green and gold to get corporate revenue."
Robinson said Frazier can thrive in Hawaii.
"I hope he has the opportunity to go to an environment conducive to growth where people aren't fighting against him," he said. "Alabama-Birmingham is treated as a stepchild to the University of Alabama."
UAB falls under the auspices of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, and the board has threatened to shut down the Blazers athletics department if substantial financial improvement isn't made by 2004.
Board member Richard Scrushy does hold Frazier accountable. He was quoted in a magazine article as saying that the board needed to "light a fire under the AD," according to an article in yesterday's Birmingham Post-Herald.
Frazier has also been criticized for spending time on things that did not have a direct affect on UAB athletics, such as his work with the Olympics.
Also, Frazier supposedly has strong contacts in the football bowl world, as he is on the Fiesta Bowl committee. But the Blazers were bowl-eligible in 2000 and 2001 and did not get invited to a postseason game.
Robinson and others in Birmingham, though, hint that some would like to see Frazier leave UAB for other reasons. He hired Michael Anderson, the first African-American Division I basketball coach in the state, and the whispers are that didn't sit well with some of the state's power brokers.
Robinson said Frazier would be UAB's loss and Hawaii's gain.
"Herman is one of those guys who can compete on any level in anything he does," Robinson said. "He's very smart and knows how to deal with people."
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