Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

UH’s Steinberg deal
worthy only if
grand plans succeed

DOES it work?

That's all the fans and followers of University of Hawaii athletics want to know.

I was struck by this while reading colleague Rob Perez's Sunday piece on the unusual business triangle featuring UH, its football coach, June Jones, and Leigh Steinberg, the famous guy working for both of them.

This could become an awkward arrangement, Rob pointed out.

It could.

"Sports marketing experts on the mainland say having the same firm representing the athletic department and its head football coach simultaneously not only is unusual, but creates the potential for conflicts at multiple levels," Rob wrote.

That makes sense, and I think most people who look at the situation objectively would acknowledge that possibility, or, if not that, at least the possible perception thereof.

"Duh!" would be a typical response.

We know that, but we're willing to look past that because this is Leigh Steinberg, here.

What people are interested in, what I'm interested in, is this:

Does it work?

After we got swept up in the hoopla and everyone was excited and Hawaii went ga-ga that a name like Leigh Steinberg (as we at the Star-Bulletin gushed is "one of the world's most powerful sports agents") would actually do business here, we weren't worried about conflicts of interest, possible or potential, real or imagined.

Now, a couple years later, we don't want to hear that. We only want to know if the deal is delivering, if Steinberg and UH is as good as was advertised.

In other words, does it work?

Because a lot was advertised.

With the amount of money coming in to UH -- close to $1 million (insert sound of cash register here) -- it seems like it's working very, very well, though all those ads do make Aloha Stadium look ugly on TV.

But that's a part of big-time, big business athletics, and that's what Steinberg was hired to bring to Hawaii.

There was more to the deal, though. "Steinberg's contacts especially would be beneficial as the university strove to get its story out nationally and internationally, (UH officials) said," Rob wrote Sunday. Bingo. That's what I'm talking about.

Show me the marketing. Let me hear you, Jerry! Show me the marketing!

"Steinberg also said he wants to secure unprecedented national TV exposure for the revitalized Rainbows football program," our newspaper reported in 2000. " 'We want to try to land TV deals for the football team, with the thinking they play in a rather unique time slot -- the last game of the day,' he said. 'We want to see if we can do a Notre Dame-type of deal where they're on every week on some network.' "

That hasn't happened yet. That's the other half of the deal. And, someone reminded me today, that kind of stuff takes time. It won't happen overnight. But it's part of the package, part of the promise.

Hawaii fans might not care about conflicts of interest. But they do want to hear that this works.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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