Frazier tribute a bit early, but fun
A FEW weeks ago at the Honolulu Quarterback Club it was announced that May 15 (yesterday) the club would be throwing a celebratory tribute to honor Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier. Immediately, one word came to mind:
Afterward, a man who has been intimately involved with UH sports for decades came up to me -- there was no introduction to his comments, we both knew what the topic would be -- with a one-word reaction of his own:
We could only smile.
Sunday, I told someone that I was going to a Herman Frazier tribute, and the puzzled response was, "Is he leaving?"
No one saying anything against the guy. Things seem to be moving along. It's been almost four years. No teams are on NCAA probation (though a national title was stripped, after he'd just gotten settled in), Fred vonAppen hasn't been hired. And Frazier is always telling us he'll have the budget balanced any second now. Still, a tribute? Really?
Now, it's unfair to hold the man's career at UH under a "is-he-tribute-worthy" microscope just because someone else decided to throw him a nice lunch. But that's the natural response. Forgive our human, first-reflex reactions.
And of course, I was going. I'm an open-minded guy, and I really, actually wanted to hear what everyone said. Let's hear why.
And it was very nice. I think that's a lot of what it was about -- that the Honolulu Quarterback Club is a nice organization made up of very nice people who do nice things. And they were doing something nice. The QB Club is made up of enthusiastic and loyal boosters and fans who are always behind UH, has been since 1947.
And, let's be honest. The QB Club could use some days when the place is filled with a few more okoles in the seats (toast Frazier and all the coaches will come!).
Booster extraordinaire Don Murphy started off: "In August of 2002 Herman took the job and came over here," Murphy said, "and everybody knows he's done some really, really wonderful things since then. Unfortunately they've all been for the U.S. Olympic Committee."
It was a joke. He said so a second later. But it was a really, really good joke. People laughed really LOUD. They laughed long, with great gusto. It was really effective. Let me put it this way: It was a really good joke.
(Then he said several nice things before attacking Frazier's ability at Karaoke.)
Then, Mayor Mufi Hannemann. He was there to officially make it "Herman Frazier Day." He started off with a joke of his own: "I wanted to come here and really play it straight because I love the tickets that I get at the UH games," he said, before launching into the Whereases. (One of which was "UH is expected to have a profitable sports program this fiscal year.")
Associate AD John McNamara: "As an administrator, Herman is a very thoughtful, innovative and creative person." And, doing McNamara's own job "becomes so much easier because of the way Herman is thought of within the community."
OK. Fine. Denise Konan, the new chancellor: "I have been chancellor now for about one academic year and for the past academic year it's been a delight to work with and learn from Herman Frazier. I have opportunities to travel to the mainland, and ... "
And every time you go you see Herman there?
Nah! Nah! Nah! Only joke. Eh, if Murph can do it ...
No, she said everywhere she goes they know Frazier, and his "reputation that raises the stature of our university tremendously."
And in the end, it seemed that this was what the day was about. Frazier had been named to another list. (One of his great strengths is being named to lists.) This time he was one of the NCAA's "100 Most Influential Student-Athletes." Who knows what that means. You have presidents, a Supreme Court justice, an astronaut, Jackie Robinson, Bill Cosby, Bill Bradley, Kofi Annan, Jesse Jackson, Dr. Spock, Madeline Albright, and ... the athletic director at UH.
Frazier was understandably honored to have been put in such company. When he hit the podium he ambled into an emotional, moving, stirring speech about his late parents. Which somehow segued into an emotional, moving, stirring speech about putting premiums on season tickets.
"And I can't begin to tell you what that meant for this institution," he said.
What he meant was that that money became the lifeblood of the Olympic, nonrevenue sports.
OK, now that's something. That's concrete. That's the kind of thing that's going to get him remembered here, not gold medals or top-100 lists.
"Today I kind of smile," Frazier said as he started his speech. He knows it's early for something like this. "We've come to the University of Hawaii to make a difference. And I truly think that we have made a difference thus far, but we still have a long ways to go in order to fulfill the promises that we told the administration when we first came here."
That's fair. Let's do another one of these in another couple of years. Hopefully by then everyone will already know the reason why.