Legislature finally should address maintenance and repairs at university
Herman Frazier is being ejected as the University of Hawaii's athletic director following football coach June Jones' acceptance of the coaching job at Southern Methodist University.
June Jones' resignation as head coach has thrown the University of Hawaii's football program into disarray. The ejection of Herman Frazier as athletic director is a positive step toward creating a system that has been dysfunctional for too long. Improvements demanded by Jones should force the Legislature to provide funds to satisfy structural needs throughout the Manoa campus.
Frazier's clumsiness had drawn attention for months, resulting in ridicule of a football schedule rated weakest in the nation, a complaint by quarterback Colt Brennan about the lack of soap in the locker room, an awkward transition of head basketball coaches and a return of 4,000 tickets to the Sugar Bowl. The university's deteriorating athletic facilities received notice from ESPN announcers during the bowl game.
Brennan said the facilities stood in disrepair during his entire three years at UH. "Soap, that's all we got," he said while being honored last month as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Frazier's most egregious failing, of course, was his neglect in proposing a renewal of Jones' five-year contract, due to expire in June, before Southern Methodist University provided an option with a sizable pay raise. If an offer from UH had been made as late as the Warriors' Dec. 1 game against Washington, Jones said in a recent letter to friends, "There would have been no negotiating. I probably would have signed it."
UH President David McClain pointed out that extensions of five-year contracts with "high performance" football coaches are commonly negotiated after three or four years, and UH "was slow to step up" and present an offer to Jones. "If we were on the case," he said, "we certainly didn't get to the point where anything got forwarded to me." Given Frazier's past conduct, McClain should not have waited for a progress report.
Top-notch coaches understandably will be hesitant about entering a system in need of administrative acumen and physical repair and maintenance. Legislators will be forced at last to address the aging infrastructure.
It won't be easy. The university asked last year for $165 million to repair its campuses, but that request was answered with only $40 million. A supplemental budget request for nearly $100 million for repair and maintenance was halved by the state administration.
Continued failure to provide adequate funding could result in many professors following Jones' path to mainland institutions. A survey of about 3,000 UH faculty members indicated that half of them plan to leave the university during the next five years, mainly because of poor support, according to J.N. Musto, executive director of the faculty union.
The issue comes to a head as the governor prepares to ask the Legislature for a modest increase in spending in expectation of a moderate economic growth for several years. Lawmakers' task will be finding money to pay for repairs needed at UH.