CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
University of Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier made his opening statement to a legislative panel at an informational briefing at the state Capitol yesterday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Frazier takes Capitol punishment
State lawmakers put UH athletic director Herman Frazier on hot seat
Some of the hundred-plus people who were there will remember it only as 4 hours of their lives they'll never have back.
But Herman Frazier and K. Mark Takai saw value in yesterday's informational briefing for state lawmakers about the status of the University of Hawaii athletic department.
Not much new ground was broken. But Frazier, the UH athletic director, was grilled on a variety of issues including the budget, facilities, fundraising, travel, the basketball coach transition, the Warriors' football schedule and Frazier's accessibility.
"(UH athletics has) got an image problem," said Takai, a state representative (D-Aiea, Pearl City) and former UH swimmer and student body president.
Takai said the meeting was called because of numerous complaints from constituents.
"I think a meeting like this is generally very productive because it provides the public with the opportunity to find out many of the questions people have been wanting to ask for quite a while," Takai said. "From that standpoint I think it's very productive."
Takai said UH needs to communicate its funding needs better with the Legislature.
Frazier was asked if he thinks he will have a better relationship with the lawmakers after the briefing.
"We didn't have a bad one with them before," Frazier said. "We were just never afforded the opportunity to sit down and talk with them. That's why you kind of wish that you have a cordial nice meeting instead of a public debate as to what it is that you're supposed to do for your program."
UH coaches, including June Jones, Mike Trapasso, Bob Nash and Pat Charity, attended, as did Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson.
Benson said he is working with Frazier and ESPN in negotiations with six teams to complete UH's football schedule with a 13th game. Frazier said if a deal is not secured by the end of this month, the Warriors will play a 12-game schedule.
Herman Frazier attempted to answer just about every question put to him yesterday by state lawmakers.
But the embattled Hawaii athletic director, with the help of Manoa interim chancellor Denise Konan, held his tongue and his ground firmly on one query.
Toward the end of the 4-hour informational briefing, state Rep. K. Mark Takai (D-Aiea, Pearl City) asked Frazier where the AD might get some big donations to help UH's athletic department climb out of the red permanently.
Frazier replied that he has a prospect list, and that he personally handles potential donors of $1 million or more.
Takai wanted names.
"I really don't think this is appropriate," she said.
By that time, an overflow crowd of 100 at the Capitol, including UH coaches and administrators, had dwindled down to less than 50. Those who stayed to the end and hadn't fallen asleep watching on 'Olelo saw some of the most contentious back-and-forth.
"My line of questioning at the very end is probably the most important," Takai said. "As we move forward, how can Mr. Frazier assure us and the public of his ability to fundraise? I'm still unclear as to that."
In his closing remarks Takai -- a former UH swimmer and student-body president -- lectured Frazier on the uniqueness of Hawaii, and how it is important for him to have relationships with powerful (spelled rich) business leaders. Takai wanted names of Frazier's big boosters.
"You can't do that," Frazier told a reporter afterwards. "There's no way you give that out. There's no athletic director in America that's going to give out the names of who your key donors are, especially ones who you have lined up."
Frazier was also grilled on a wide-range of previously publicized issues, including the athletic department's budget, facilities, lack of a complete football schedule and his handling of the men's basketball coaching change.
Afterward he said it was productive.
"We were able to squash some rumors out there pertaining to unnecessary travel. I think we squashed some rumors about a whole lot of things about how I feel about our program, what I do to our program," said Frazier, who has been UH's athletic director since 2002. "I think the comments you heard from some of our coaches tell you exactly where we fit."
Basketball coach Bob Nash spoke in support of Frazier. He said being hired after letter-of-intent day did not hurt his first recruiting class.
"We've not been negatively impacted," Nash said.
Takai asked about the budget. After three years in the red, UH was $7,000 on the plus side in 2005-2006. But a $2.3 million deficit remains, and the lawmaker questioned accounting practices.
"I can tell you I'm deeply concerned about financial statements. I think the fact that I was able to point out some things that are a little bit troubling about the financial situation is important," Takai said.
Frazier said he never claimed a deficit from previous years didn't exist.
"How many times have we talked about that? The audit came out in January. If he had any questions about that, he should have asked me in January," Frazier said. "The numbers are there. We didn't fake anything there. We always said we were in the black for the one year. That other money (the previous deficit) didn't disappear. That's why we were kind of baffled with that question. That's a public document that's been out six months."
The subject of UH's autonomy factored in when legislative funding for facility repairs was addressed. Takai asked for more information about what lower campus needs to maintain and improve facilities such as Cooke Field, which remains without turf. Konan countered that there are other projects on upper campus that are of higher priority, and it is not the Legislature's domain to determine priorities at UH.
Takai said the Legislature can't help the UH athletic department if it isn't asked. Frazier said he didn't want to "double-ask" since such requests are supposed to come from upper campus.
When Takai asked Konan if he should forward the numerous complaints about UH's athletic facilities to her, she answered "absolutely" without hesitating.
"I think the whole discussion about facilities leaves a lot to be desired," Takai said. "On the one hand everybody questions why the facilities are in such deplorable conditions and they ask the Legislature why you don't step up. On the other hand one of our frustrations is we don't have the ability to step up if we don't know what is actually needed. I think that discussion on facilities will be continuing and hopefully we can get to the bottom of some of those concerns as well."
Takai also took Frazier to task for the lack of a complete football schedule for 2007.
Frazier said he, Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson, and ESPN are working with six teams, including two from the Pac-10, for a 13th game, at Aloha Stadium on Oct. 20 or Nov. 3. Frazier said a $700,000 payout is being offered.
Benson appeared yesterday and spoke in support of Frazier.
"People on the mainland look at him as efficient, effective and organized," Benson said.
It's clear there are many in Hawaii who don't feel the same way, and Takai said that's why the briefing was held.
"I think we started the discussion on questions that I've had," Takai said. "I think there's more that still needs to come from the university as to whether I'm satisfied."