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Pricey mistake by UH?


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POSTED: Monday, October 26, 2009

First, full disclosure.

When Greg McMackin was hired as Hawaii head football coach, I was all for it. If I'd been writing columns then, they would have been in full endorsement of elevating the successful defensive coordinator to replace June Jones.

With Jones' sudden departure to SMU, two top players opting early for the NFL Draft and other turmoil like the ousting of athletic director Herman Frazier, one thing was needed more than anything ASAP—a sense of continuity and steadiness.

At that time, McMackin looked like a great source for that. Never mind that he'd never been a Division I head coach. He'd coached Ray Lewis. He'd coached NFL defenses. He was the common denominator in UH's two most recent WAC championships. He shook everybody's hand and playfully offered “;scholarships”; to little kids.

Now, there are a few of you out there who can honestly say you were against this hiring from the beginning—but only a very few. The rest, please don't try to revise history; you'll only make yourself look silly, and there's way too much of that going on around the UH football program these days.

What many of us did object to—but no one loudly enough—was McMackin's contract. One of the things Jones said on his way out was UH must pay big bucks to the next head coach. Well, those in charge took him seriously for a change; they were so upset that their Sugar Bowl daddy bolted that they gave his right-hand man the raise that might have gotten Jones to stay. Talk about your pretzel logic.

McMackin's contract is sweet. It's guaranteed, originally $1,100,004 a year for five years (even after a voluntary 7 percent pay cut, it's still around $180,000 more per year than Boise State's Chris Petersen).

So that means it would cost more than $3 million to buy out or reassign McMackin after this season, which UH can do if it so decides. Don't hold your breath on it, even if the Warriors do not win another game this fall. It would entail the chancellor and Board of Regents having to admit a mistake ... a $5 million mistake. There's a new UH system president, but she's not going to want to eat that much right off the bat.

WHEN THINGS were at their bleakest in 2004 and the mob was growing to chase JJ out of town (imagine that, eh?), I had a long talk with Frazier about how an AD handles that situation. He told me there was no way one losing season after three consecutive winning ones would get Jones fired. But there would be a serious offseason meeting about what would be expected the following year and what would happen if the goal wasn't reached. Then the Warriors went and made it a moot point by winning their last four.

Amid the chaos and desperation of January 2008, Warrior Nation was sold on the idea of a seamless transition—just plug in new players into the old system and presto. Well, not quite.

If the message had been the reality of at least a two-year rebuilding project, the losses now would be easier to stomach. Required with that is an actual top-to-bottom rebuilding master plan, based on recruits from high schools. Nothing against JC transfers personally, but two-year players are stop-gap measures and too many plays hell with your scholarship recruiting numbers down the road.

I'M NOT ready to join the Fire Greg McMackin page on Facebook (four members last night). But continued losing will not be accepted by a fan base that watched its team go 12-0 and to a BCS bowl game just two years ago. And a state that can't afford to educate its kids shouldn't pay a football coach anywhere near a million dollars a year.

Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.