CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
New athletic director Jim Donovan plans to make the UH budget one of his first concerns.
New vision at UH
Donovan takes over as Hawaii's AD on March 24 after unanimous approval
STORY SUMMARY »
Like most young supervisors, Jim Donovan would sometimes get frustrated with directives from the big bosses. Yesterday he recalled an occasion in the 1980s when he was Rainbow Stadium manager and received a memo stating student help would be drastically cut.
His first reaction was, "How am I going to run the stadium now?"
His second: "Someday I'm going to be down in that office and I'm going to be the one writing those stupid memos!"
That time has arrived.
Donovan, 48, was introduced as University of Hawaii athletic director yesterday afternoon, an hour after his nomination by Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw was approved by the Board of Regents.
He replaces Herman Frazier, who was dismissed in January.
Donovan, who officially starts March 24, assumes responsibility for a 20-team, 500-athlete Division I program, with around 150 full-time employees and a $26 million annual budget. He also inherits an accumulated deficit of around $4.9 million, according to a UH system official.
Donovan said the budget is one of the first concerns.
"We are going to put a plan together and then have everyone work toward making that plan work," he said.
Donovan's appointment is for five years, and he will be paid a base salary of $240,000 per year.
"Jim's vision, experience and ability, combined with his passion for UH Manoa and bond with Hawaii, make him a great match for ensuring the future success of our athletic programs," Hinshaw said.
The former UH football player and graduate assistant coach got his first athletic administration job -- the post as baseball stadium manager -- when then-associate athletic director Rockne Freitas hired him.
Freitas was among four other candidates interviewed for AD two weeks ago. Last week, Hinshaw forwarded Donovan to the BOR as her recommendation. A late push for support for Freitas did not sway the regents from approving Donovan unanimously yesterday.
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan played football for the university in 1981 and 1982.
Jim Donovan, the new University of Hawaii athletic director, talks about the challenges the job presents in the first of a two-part question-and-answer session. In tomorrow's second part, Donovan, answers questions about his background.
Q: In your view, what does the job of University of Hawaii athletic director entail?
A: It's changed over the years. At one point it was managing very meager resources and trying to just field a team in various sports and play against military teams, community high schools, that kind of thing.
As it moved forward, through Paul Durham and Ray Nagel and Stan Sheriff, it really started getting into big-time athletics. At that time it started to turn into what I call the business of education and entertainment.
And so the education part of it is you have to make sure the student-athletes have the resources they need to be successful, both academically and athletically. Over time, you have the academic center built and a real focus on keeping the student-athletes on track and of course getting their degrees because that's what it's all about.
On the business side, you have the facilities, you have marketing. You have to continue revenue streams and create new revenue streams. So going into the future, they have to be a very good business manager. They have to be rainmakers, with donations and revenue streams. They need to work well with the rest of campus, the Legislature and the executive branch, and also with Aloha Stadium.
It's become a situation that was just trying to scratch some nickels together and play anyone who will show up to something that's a very dynamic and diverse job responsibility.
Q: What's the first order of business for you?
A: Actually, there are several. I need to sit down with the coaches and staff and talk to them about what they feel they need to win. I'm going to sit down with the support groups, and talk about how we can support them. The Legislature, obviously; while it's in session I have to be down there, and be as transparent as we possibly can be and ask them for their support.
The big part will be putting together a plan.
Q: As for personnel changes, Is there a timetable before you consider changes?
A: I have the advantage of having played there, coached there and worked there for 17 years and I still know a lot of the people who were there 5 1/2 years ago when I left. I know what their strengths are, what they bring to the table.
When the (search) committee asked me that question, I said, to be honest, I have to sit down with them and find out what their marching orders were. How can you evaluate someone if you don't know what they were told to do and what their direction was? What I need to do is go in there and learn and communicate and start to build a vision, and then evaluate them in terms of job performance. I think that's the way we go forward.
There may be some changes that happen sooner than later, I don't have a strict timetable.
Everyone needs to be pulling on the rope in the same direction. It's hard enough to win nowdays against a program with an $80 million budget with our $25 million budget if everyone's pulling on the rope in the same direction. Boise State seems like they're doing a great job in that area. We're going to do it our own way.
If people aren't pulling the rope in the same direction, that will be the fastest way changes might happen.
Q: Is there ever a day off for an athletic director of the University of Hawaii?
A: I don't think there's too many days off. It's not quite a 24-7, but I'd say it's about an 18-7. And that's OK. I love UH athletics. I grew up my adult life there, from being a player, a coach and administrator.
The opportunity to go back there is really special to me. I know how much the University of Hawaii means to the state of Hawaii. We are Hawaii's team.
I'll always remember my first game. When Coach (Dick) Tomey got us all in the locker room there and said, "You're going to go out there tonight and you're going to play for yourselves, and I'm sure you're going to play well, we've had a lot of practices, double-days and everything, but I want you to remember one thing. More importantly, you're going to be playing for the state of Hawaii."
And I think that's something that I've never forgotten.
Q: How involved will you be with football scheduling?
A: My philosophy is I'll be talking with Coach (Greg) McMackin very much with anything having to do with the football program. I was very happy when he stepped up and got the head job. He's only been at the University of Hawaii two years and we won the WAC championship both years. That speaks volumes about his potential as our head coach.
We're only going to play one Division I-AA team a year, at the most. Some years we don't. There's a place for one per year (sometimes).
I don't think we want to play more than two BCS teams per year, but we'll be flexible depending what Coach McMackin wants. I really don't think we should be playing two BCS teams on the road during the same season. The WAC is getting better and better. So we need to keep into account we don't want to play games where our kids get really beat up in because it affects us in our conference. I'd like to see us play two BCS, two non BCS, as a rule what we're looking for. But anything we do we'll be in high communication with Coach McMackin.
I would be very interested in playing BYU again. And I think playing UNLV is very good for both schools.
Maybe even something with San Diego State in the future.
I'd like to reach out to the academies, maybe play some institutions in New York or Washington to get our players a different experience. Perhaps play at Annapolis (Md.), and check out Washington D.C. A lot of our kids maybe haven't been there. We want them to have an experience in addition to playing the football game.
Q: One of June Jones' visions was to play a game in Japan or Australia. How about playing his team, SMU, in Japan or Australia?
A: I will take nothing off the table. I did a lot of work on a potential game in Australia with ESPN. Once we look at the immediate things, I'm sure we will dust that off. And having SMU on the schedule is a no-brainer.
Q: What are your thoughts on Title IX, gender equity, and where UH stands now?
A: I would say that gender equity is a higher standard than Title IX. We're probably in compliance with Title IX and very close with gender equity.
Title IX is numbers, how many opportunities for men, how many for women, facilities for men, facilities for women. Gender equity sort of overlays that. Say two coaches, one men's golf, one women's golf, are you treating them equitably? If the men's coach gets a car and $300,000 a year and gets to play at Waialae Country Club every day, and the women's coach plays at a public course and gets $40,000 a year and doesn't get a car, you say, wait a minute, they're doing the same job, it needs to be treated more equitably.
We have to always be on top of that. I don't know what tweaking has to be done yet, but we always have to be diligent with gender equity and of course Title IX.
Q: Fundraising and communication. Do those two overlap or are they separate?
A: I think they connect big time. We are Hawaii's team. The facilities we play in are paid for by everyone. By definition that means everyone who pays taxes is a stakeholder in UH athletics. We need to communicate with them, embrace them and thank them.
This is not about Jim Donovan or June Jones, or Riley Wallace, or Greg McMackin or Dave Shoji. It's about UH athletics representing the state of Hawaii. We need to communicate with them that we appreciate what they've done in the past and we need their help in the future. A lot of that comes through the legislative and executive branches, allowing us to get maintenance funds and capital improvement funds. They've been very good to us, but we're always going to have future needs.
That's one source. The other is getting donors and letter-
winners and alumni to come in and donate to the school they went to. With great communication it makes it a whole lot easier to have people step up and say how can we help.
Essentially we're reaching out to everybody.
Q: Some say the job of athletic director at UH is inherently set up for failure, regardless who it is. How do you remain optimistic in a job with inevitable dilemmas, daily and otherwise?
A: Being an athletic director is a tough job, no question. So many different constituencies and stakeholders are involved. Education and entertainment don't always connect. There are so many issues out there.
With that said, Hawaii is a very unique opportunity. You have an opportunity to represent an entire state. There aren't too many athletic programs like that, a few, but not many.
We're 2,500 miles away from anywhere else. There's an inherent pride in the success. I think the Sugar Bowl is an example. I didn't see one frown in the month of December. UH athletics brought that to our state. If we can bring that feeling more often, through football and our other teams ... It's like when Coach Tomey told me I'm playing for the entire state. I'm playing for the entire state again.