McMackin language stirs uproar


POSTED: Friday, July 31, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY » Greg McMackin embarked on his trip back to Hawaii yesterday trailed by a most unwelcome spotlight.

In the hours after the Hawaii football coach used a gay slur during a press conference at the Western Athletic Conference Football Preview, news of his remarks and subsequent apologies spread swiftly across the country and drew strong reactions back home.

Speaking to print reporters from around the conference, McMackin used the slur to describe a cheer the Notre Dame football team performed at last year's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl banquet.

McMackin was in transit as school officials issued statements on the matter and what action the university might take upon his return hadn't been determined as of yesterday. McMackin is expected to meet with UH athletic director Jim Donovan first thing this morning.

Donovan declined to comment on possible disciplinary action yesterday, citing it as a personnel matter.

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“;Coach McMackin is a good man and cares for the University of Hawaii and the football program. He made a statement he shouldn't have made,”; Donovan said.

“;I believe one of Hawaii's greatest strengths and the University of Hawaii's greatest strengths is our diversity and we're very proud of that and we wouldn't want to say or do anything that would hurt anyone.”;

Gov. Linda Lingle said the remark was inappropriate and that the second-year coach realizes that.

“;I think anybody who's in public life that talks a lot in public faces this problem,”; Lingle said. “;I've certainly said things I wish I could take back and I know the Coach is feeling that way right now.

“;Nobody's going be harder on him than he's going be on himself in this situation. I read his remarks in the paper. I know he's just kicking himself right now about it. I believe him when he says this is not who he is as a person and his players have backed that up.”;

UH president David McClain said he was, “;angered and disappointed by the statement attributed to Coach McMackin. It certainly does not represent the values of the University of Hawaii. I'm glad to learn that Coach has apologized; this is the first step in the healing process.”;

McClain ends his term as president today. Incoming president MRC Greenwood is still working at UC Davis and declined comment.

“;I think (McClain) should be the one to issue anything on behalf of the university,”; said Greenwood, who arrives on Aug. 20.

UH-Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw also issued a joint statement with Donovan yesterday afternoon.

“;Coach Greg McMackin's use of a derogatory term (f——- dance) during his remarks at today's WAC event is highly regrettable, offensive and surprising to those of us who know him,”; Hinshaw said.

“;I know that Coach McMackin deeply regrets his comments because they do not represent his personal beliefs nor those of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which supports an inclusive campus environment for all students.

“;Hurtful language like this has no place in our community, and particularly not among leaders of our UH Manoa campus. Athletic Director Jim Donovan and I will be discussing with Coach McMackin further steps that will be taken to reaffirm his and our commitment to fair and equal treatment of all.”;

Donovan said he called Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick yesterday morning and left a message apologizing on behalf of the university and the athletic department. Notre Dame spokesperson Brian Hardin said the university would not comment at this time.

Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson said the league would wait for the university to address the issue before deciding on possible sanctions, which could range from a private reprimand to suspension.

“;There is a sportsmanship piece in our code that may apply and at the appropriate time we'll address it,”; Benson said. “;As far as this matter today, it's going to be a University of Hawaii matter.”;

During his press conference, McMackin discussed this year's team and was asked about the end of last season and the loss to Notre Dame. McMackin was speaking about how dueling chants at the Hawaii Bowl banquet may have inspired the Fighting Irish for the game when he described the Notre Dame cheer as “;this little f——- dance.”;

A moment later, he repeated the term when asking the reporters in the room to “;cover”; for him, and continued with his comments on this year's team.

After finishing his remarks, McMackin returned to the interview room to apologize. He later made a more formal statement before heading to the airport for his return flight to Honolulu.

“;I would sincerely like to apologize for the inappropriate verbiage and words that I used,”; McMackin said in his second apology. “;I have nothing against the University of Notre Dame. I don't talk like that, I'm really ticked off at myself for saying that. I don't have any prejudices and it really makes me mad that I even said that. I'm disappointed in myself.

“;What I was trying to do was be funny and it wasn't funny.”;

The athletic department later released another statement of apology.

The WAC shot video of the press conferences throughout the two-day media preview, but Benson said the league didn't plan on posting it on the WAC's Web site.

“;Obviously his remarks were offensive and he showed his sincerity just his last couple minutes in terms of his regret. I don't know if there's any useful purpose to put that type of remark out there online,”; Benson said.

PFLAG-Oahu, a local gay rights group, called for McMackin to fund a public service announcement on “;the dangers of abusive language on the field, in the classroom and elsewhere,”; diversity training for athletic department employees and a donation from McMackin to a gay support group.