I was snooping around campus last week and overheard UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida on the telephone.
He was speaking to head football coach Fred vonAppen. Here's what I eavesdropped through Yoshida's open office window:
"Fred, I hate to give you more bad news. But you're going to have to use volleyballs instead of footballs for your upcoming practices at Barbers Point."
"I'm really sorry, Fred. I could have sworn that we marked the order form for 50 new footballs instead of volleyballs. But look at the bright side. The kickoffs will go farther in practice. And I'll even send Mike Wilton out to help the quarterbacks get a better grip on the ball."
"Uh, Fred, could you do me a favor and keep this under your hat? Reporters from all over the mainland keep calling me to see how our big bake sale is going to make up for my bonus, I mean budget deficit. I hate to think what the media would do if they found out that you have to practice with volleyballs instead of footballs. They just don't understand how things work here in Hawaii."
OK, OK. Just kidding.
But you have to admit that vonAppen has sure shown one quality so far: patience.
THE UH athletic department, recently renamed Comedy Central, has already made the new head coach jump through more hoops than a circus animal.
At this point, vonAppen could probably get a lawyer and have his contract voided. He was hired as a football coach, not a juggler - and he is already paying the price of athletic department budget and scholastic mismanagement.
To his credit, he has kept the focus on football. And even though the athletic department is at least partially responsible for so many players being academically ineligible, vonAppen laid the blame
squarely on the players themselves.
But there should have been some planning by UH officials for the time gap between Bob Wagner's firing and vonAppen's hiring. Why bother recruiting players who can get into the school if you can't help keep them eligible?
I'm not saying the players aren't at fault. But athletes who make the tremendous time commitment to play a major Division I sport deserve academic help if needed - within the rules, of course.
Well, vonAppen and his staff have certainly handled the adversity well. He could have used the money and grade problems as advance excuses for the upcoming season.
Instead, he has kept the spotlight on the football team as the two-a-day practices opened up at Barbers Point today. After a spirited spring session at Cooke Field, the players know that there won't be any lack of discipline, which plagued the Wagner teams, especially last year.
VONAppen hasn't promised a lot of victories in the first season - and for good reason. The team is small and slow overall. The Rainbows don't have a quarterback to run their new offense. There are a few decent receivers, though, and the offensive line might be OK if it stays healthy.
The real concern is on the other side of the ball, where highly respected defensive coordinator Don Lindsey will have to add a magic act to his resume.
VonAppen has promised that his team will play hard every game. UH fans can already count on that much.
And the scholarly head coach has sure learned one lesson in a hurry in his short tenure at UH: That he better take care of business himself as much as possible.
He knows not to count on Comedy Central for much help.