By Paul Arnett

Friday, October 10, 1997

Surely, UH’s big three
can work this out

IF the University of Hawaii were an airport, there would have been several near-misses this week with all the rumors that were flying around.

Some had Rainbows head coach Fred vonAppen being fired and replaced by June Jones before the week was out. Others had Dick Tomey leaving the University of Arizona and taking the job that belongs to athletic director Hugh Yoshida.

A responsible reporter doesn't give a lot of credence to rumors, unless backed with actual facts. To talk about them on television or write about them in a straight news story without an unimpeachable source is a little like believing that not getting caught in a lie is the same as telling the truth.

When asked yesterday morning whether he would be headed to Hawaii if things didn't work out at Arizona, Tomey laughed derisively and said, "What will you guys think up next? I won't dignify that with an answer. I don't have any interest in being the athletic director of Hawaii."

VonAppen reacted as angrily as Tomey when asked to comment earlier this week on the possibility of his imminent demise. He called UH president Kenneth Mortimer to see if it were true and was told by his commander-in-chief there was absolutely no validity to the rumor of the week.

AT this point, it seems unlikely that Mortimer is going to pull the plug on anyone. He has publicly stated he wants stability in the athletic department and sending vonAppen or Yoshida packing before the year is out seems contradictory to those recent comments.

While vonAppen isn't close to producing a consistent winner on the field, he has taken a team in academic disarray and gotten the student-athletes into the classroom, no questions asked.

The results are a team GPA that has climbed a half-point over a year ago, and fewer academic casualties this past summer than any other class this decade.

Granted, that alone is not going to keep you employed as a head coach, but it is something the president of a fast-rising university appreciates, especially considering nearly 20 players flunked out from the end of the 1995 season -- Bob Wagner's last -- to the beginning of the 1996 campaign.

The Rainbows also have shown marked improvement over the football team of a year ago. They already have equaled the number of wins of the 1996 season, and would have been a much more competitive football team at Colorado State last week if not for numerous injuries to key personnel.

ALL this week, the local radio call-in shows have asked football fans to comment on the possible scenarios facing the UH administrators this season.

Most believe patience is the key. They believe vonAppen and Yoshida are taking the athletic department in the right direction. The two just need time to make it work.

If the average fan on the street can see that miracles don't come around in two years, then it would seem a person as close to the situation as Mortimer is would draw a similar conclusion.

Mortimer also appreciates the work Yoshida has done in the politically correct arena of gender equity. The NCAA called Yoshida's plan to balance the gender gap an ambitious one. Unlike at many mainland universities, no gender suit has been filed. And that's worth noting.

Obviously, those collective positives achieved by Yoshida and vonAppen don't mean there aren't problems that need to be addressed, and quickly, before recruiting becomes a reality.

But surely, vonAppen, Yoshida and Mortimer can come together with a workable plan that will keep everyone in place through the remainder of the millennium.

If not, then the rumor mill will continue to grind away, unabated, and create an uncertain atmosphere on the UH campus that won't be good for anyone.

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

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