RICHARD WALKER / DEC. 1, 2007
Frazier on way out
One week ago Hawaii was near the top of the college football world. The Warriors were undefeated and playing in the Sugar Bowl.
Today the program is in shambles.
Iconic coach June Jones resigned to go to Southern Methodist yesterday, taking at least three assistants with him. Athletic director Herman Frazier was to either resign or be fired today.
Assistant coaches had no idea who was in charge yesterday with a crucial point of the recruiting season on the horizon. Key players were considering leaving early for the pros, joining junior slotback Davone Bess, who did so last week.
Associate athletic director Carl Clapp will be interim AD, a university source said.
Several sources told the Star-Bulletin yesterday that Frazier was on his way out. It was not a surprise.
Fans, including well-heeled boosters, had become more and more disenchanted with his performance as head of the state's most prominent collection of sports teams. The final straw was losing the services of Jones, the winningest football coach in school history.
Frazier's direct supervisor, Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, and her boss, UH President David McClain, said in a news conference yesterday they would address Frazier's situation today.
Most questions about the AD were deflected, although McClain (who chaired the search committee that hired Frazier in 2002), had this to say about the athletic director's role:
"You produce, you get your coaches contracted in a timely fashion," McClain said.
A source close to the situation said Frazier was given the option to resign. If he did not do so in 24 hours, he would be fired.
Frazier appeared at his office yesterday morning as if it were a normal workday, but was noticeably absent from the news conference addressing the resignation of his most high-profile employee. He did not return two messages left on his cell phone yesterday afternoon and evening.
Frazier's salary is $250,000 per year. His current five-year contract is due to expire in 2010.
McClain took some of the blame himself for not starting contract negotiations earlier. He said he could have monitored the situation by checking on it himself weekly.
"I also want to apologize to our fans and Hawaii for matters getting to this stage in the first place," McClain said. "Exceptional performance deserves exceptional recognition, and your university was slow to step up. It won't happen again."
Potential candidates to replace Frazier include HHSAA Executive Director Keith Amemiya, KGMB-TV exec Rick Blangiardi, Hawaii Bowl Executive Director Jim Donovan, Hawaii Community College Chancellor Rockne Freitas, San Jose State football coach Dick Tomey and Kamehameha Hawaii athletic director Bob Wagner. All have extensive local ties; four are former UH players and/or coaches.
Fans rallied against Frazier at Bachman Hall yesterday, and today's announcement is the result of months of their displeasure with Frazier going back to his crafting of an incomplete football schedule deemed one of the weakest in the country. Other issues include a lack of new facilities and upkeep, a messy transition of basketball coaches, returning some of the allotment of Sugar Bowl tickets and, finally, allowing Jones' contract to lapse.
Now the question is whether a new athletic director and coach can lead Hawaii football to a position anywhere near the No. 19 ranking (highest ever for UH at the end of the season) given it in the Associated Press final poll last night.
"What needs to be done is either make a commitment to big-time college football or don't do it at all," prominent booster Tony Guerrero said. "June didn't want to leave. He said that as late as the Washington game (Dec. 1), he didn't want to leave."
Frazier, 53, was the last major hire by former UH President Evan Dobelle, who was fired in 2004.
Frazier was a track and field star at Arizona State, and he won gold and bronze medals in the 1976 Olympics. He worked in the Arizona State athletic department for 23 years, rising to the position of associate athletic director. He was athletic director at Alabama-Birmingham from 2000 until being hired by UH in 2002.