RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jim Donovan addressed the Honolulu Quarterback Club yesterday on his first official day as UH's athletic director.
Donovan deals with deficit
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Put the money from the Hawaii appearance in a Jan. 1 BCS bowl game on the plus side of the athletic department budget, and fiscal year 2007-08 might end with a sweet surplus.
But hold the Sugar Bowl sweetener, and there's likely a bitter deficit.
That's one of the things new athletic director Jim Donovan is dealing with. Yesterday was Donovan's first official work day at Manoa since leaving his associate AD's position six years ago.
He did some heavy research with the books over the weekend.
"It appears, right now, that on June 30 of '08, the athletic department would be in a budget deficit for this fiscal year that would finish June 30 of '08. It's pretty clear that there would be a budget deficit," Donovan said.
UH is looking at around $2.5 million from the Sugar Bowl after expenses. But chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and university president David McClain haven't decided how much of that will go to athletics.
"If you apply that money to the athletic department, it appears that net money would move us from a deficit to a surplus," Donovan said.
But that would be a surplus for just the year. The department has a cumulative deficit of somewhere between $4.5 million and $4.9 million.
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Jim Donovan spent a good part of his first official day at work as Hawaii athletic director striding the Cooke Field track yesterday.
He couldn't help but think about meeting the goal of resurfacing what used to be the UH football team's practice venue.
"I did an hour walking around the track, taking a look at our asphalt football field," Donovan told the audience at the Honolulu Quarterback Club, in his first public appearance as AD.
The goal is to have Cooke Field ready for use by the start of the 2008 football season. For spring practice, which begins Monday, the Warriors will continue to use the grass practice field.
In reality, Donovan has been on the job since even before the Board of Regents approved his appointment March 13. Much of this past weekend was spent determining that the department will probably finish in the red for the 2007-08 fiscal year.
"There are about three months left, so it's just a projection. It could still change. But the number I was told, I don't see how it would change to be a surplus in a three-month time period," said Donovan, who declined to say how much the deficit might be.
"I spent about 10 hours on Saturday and another 7 hours (Sunday) going through a whole bunch of documents, including extensive budget information and I have my interpretations now. But if there's anything I've learned about numbers, it's that people can interpret them different ways, so I want to sit down with three key stakeholders and see if they agree with my interpretations before I start throwing numbers around."
There's good news though: If the athletic department gets to keep the money for playing in the Sugar Bowl (around $2.5 million), it will be in the black for the year.
As for the cumulative deficit, the number is still not clear. Different interpretations have it between $4.5 million and $4.9 million.
One obvious way to chip away at the deficit is to increase revenue via ticket sales. Attendance in most UH sports has been on a steady decline. Donovan wants to win back the fans, and get new young ones.
"We're going through a transition period," he said. "A whole generation went out and found something else to do. For people in their 20s and 30s now, it wasn't part of their culture."
Premium seating surcharges for the revenue sports aren't going away, Donovan said. But he added that pricing structures will be revisited to make more seats affordable for more people.
"What I think we need to do is see if we can financially do some price modeling, to see what the attendance was when the prices were lower as opposed to now," Donovan said. "Where are we? Have we outpriced ourselves with some of our seats?"
UH has had some tickets as low as $10 for football games at Aloha Stadium in recent years.
"It's one thing to have the pricing, but if no one knows it, it's not necessarily effective," Donovan said. "Especially when the perception is that prices are too high in general and they don't know the lower prices exist."
Donovan said he will meet with UH student government leaders.
"We've given them things in the past, but we never sat down with them and asked them what they want," he said.
On facilities, Donovan said a bill that would give UH control of Aloha Stadium was "gutted" last week, and now building a stadium on university land in Kapolei is being explored.
"I cannot see a location on Oahu better than where Aloha Stadium is now," Donovan said. "Three major roads meet there. The parking situation, I think we all use that as a crutch."
He said the UH baseball stadium was one of the best in the nation when it was built in 1984, but "I don't think it's in the top 20 now.
"We haven't had the repair and maintenance funds."