By Paul Arnett

Tuesday, June 3, 1997

UHpresident Mortimer
may be seeing red

IF University of Hawaii president Kenneth Mortimer were chief executive officer of a major corporation, he would be facing some very angry stockholders this month.

Not all the figures for the fiscal year are in the books, but the projected athletic department numbers may leave Mortimer seeing red.

What makes operating at a possible deficit even more disturbing is the UH president inherited a healthy athletic department. He made one of his first public appearances at the Holiday Bowl banquet in December of 1992.

That afternoon in San Diego, he praised the efforts of then head football coach Bob Wagner and athletic director Stan Sheriff, and looked forward to working with both men for many years to come.

The president, however, didn't prove prescient. Sheriff died of a heart attack just one month after his finest hour as an athletic director, while Mortimer would eventually serve as Wagner's executioner three years later.

What has transpired over the last 18 months since Wagner became a victim of his own success makes the magic of that 1992 season seem like a fading memory.

This year, the 2-10 football team generated about $2.9 million. That's a $1.1 million drop off since the Rainbows made about $4 million in revenues in 1992. If that trend continues over the next five years, it's safe to say that the good ship and crew of Division I football in Hawaii will be in peril.

WITH those dire consequences in mind, Mortimer, athletic director Hugh Yoshida and Gov. Ben Cayetano should spend part of the summer developing a financial plan that makes dollars and sense for all concerned.

The legislature already did its part by allowing the athletic department to work on its own procurement plan. Things that once took nine to 12 months to get done, should be accomplished in only three or four weeks.

The $1 million in funds released by Mortimer to refurbish the UH locker rooms also is a major move in the right direction. But it's just one step on a long journey toward respectability.

Mortimer needs to look into the possibility of charging a yearly one-time student service fee. Hawaii is one of the few Division I institutions that doesn't use this sound financial plan.

If the students paid a nominal $50 fee that would guarantee them a seat at all major UH sports events, it could mean nearly a million dollars for the athletic department overnight.

Cayetano also should look into lowering or eliminating fees Hawaii has to pay to rent Aloha Stadium. It's hardly fair that those fees are waived to attract events like the Pro Bowl and major-league baseball, while making the Rainbows, who were the reason the stadium was built in the first place, continue to pay a yearly half-million dollar toll.

YOSHIDA should be more involved as well. Granted, he is not a dynamic leader, but he does have strong contacts at the political and business levels that could make a difference in the long haul.

Last fall, he developed the first pay-raise scale this decade. A few UH assistant coaches already benefited from Yoshida's plan.

But even so, vonAppen's $150,000 a year package is 12th in the Western Athletic Conference, while Yoshida's $95,000 salary is 14th among the 16 league schools.

Hawaii lags even further behind when compared to some of its national nonconference opponents. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Notre Dame spent $3.642 million on football for the 1995-96 season, while generating $15.204 million in revenues.

Season-opening opponent Minnesota spent $2.774 million on football and generated $6.132. By comparison, Hawaii spent $2.016 million and generated only $2.856.

This further illustrates how far Hawaii has to go before it's on a level playing field. Yes, there has been some movement in the right direction over the last year, but it's not nearly enough for a program that can only hope that the best days aren't behind it.

Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.

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