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UH's financial black hole gets deeper


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POSTED: Monday, March 02, 2009

The University of Hawaii athletic department is busted flat in Manoa.

Despite cashing a BCS paycheck worth more soap than Colt Brennan can use in a lifetime, a recent audit of that magical season shows the athletic department broke even. Like a weekender in Vegas, they won enough to pay for the trip.

Oh, there was $300,000 and some loose change thrown on the table, but that was used to pay the interest on this mysterious floating loan that some wise guys put together back in Jersey when Herman's munsters were in charge. The outstanding balance last June was $5.4 million and growing exponentially.

The rest of that $4 million New Year's Day bonus baby balanced the books for this cash-strapped program that has no such stimulus package this time around, leaving athletic director Jim Donovan pulling his pants pockets inside-out to see if he has any missing chips left to play.

Let's face it, ladies and gentlemen—despite all the money that has come UH's way, including the generous Ching endowment that is gussying up the place, it appears the Good Ship Lollipop is still leaking oil.

Donovan puts this year's deficit at $3 million, a similar number to last year's with no Sugar Bowl proceeds coming to the rescue. That should give local fans of Division I sports a pregnant pause. If those numbers are accurate, and why wouldn't they be with only men's volleyball and UH baseball left to move the needle, then UH is going down $8.4 million by the summer.

Think about that folks, because that is a sobering number in these difficult economic times. Donovan has kicked around several ideas, but there is nothing in his little black bag that's sending Dorothy back to Kansas. Unless the state or the university provides a rainy-day fund capable of putting out this fire, it won't be long before the whole thing goes up in smoke.

SO, WHAT'S A guy to do? One item up for bid is to ask the head coaches to give back some of their salaries to help ease the pain. Corporations worldwide are requiring their employees to do the same to keep the lights shining on Broadway. It would seem a 10 percent paycut would be in order for these fortunate men and women, particularly the ones with the six- and seven-figure salaries, Donovan included.

That would add up to about a quarter of a million dollars, a good starting point for a program in enough peril that Donovan even floated the idea of cutting a men's sport to help snuggle up to a break-even bottom line. But as our prep writer Paul Honda likes to say, “;It's all about the kids.”; And if you believe in that premise, then the coaches need to stand up and say, “;I'll give a little to save a lot.”;

If no such miracle occurs, then cash for the daily operations, including that extra employee around the office, will be slashed to the bone marrow. Major donations could also be raised from the private sector, but in case you haven't noticed, the private sector is hurting, too, leaving Donovan with few options.

And if the horizontal bop doesn't work, then the vertical cut is sure to follow. If you keep losing $3 million a year, when do you say, “;We're done here, right?”; And move on.

Or, in this case, down—to Deee Tooo.