HERMAN Frazier was world-class in the 400 meters, which means he can sprint for a long, long time. It'll come in handy in the coming weeks, months, years. All he has to do is increase the budget, keep on winning, get the seating charts worked out, soothe season ticket holders, solve the stadium (and sell it out), negotiate some contracts, tap his Olympic connections, keep it clean, and, oh yeah, conquer Asia.
Dobelle wants Frazier
to be a world-class AD
(Conquer Asia? Who was the ideal candidate for this job, Genghis Khan?)
Yes, University of Hawaii president Evan Dobelle made it very clear that one of Frazier's biggest mandates as new athletics director at UH was to expand the Rainbow fan base to the entire Far East continent. Get some Ichiros, find a few Yao Mings, dress all of the Orient in green and black. Turn Hawaii into the East-West Center of the athletic world. Frazier, Dobelle said at yesterday's introductory press conference, would be a "global athletic director."
And please forgive us the track references. We're all a little excited about this guy and his gold and bronze Olympic experience. UH certainly is. This was a "fast TRACK" hire. When it aimed for Frazier Hawaii was going for the "GOLD" (get it?).
Dobelle, in his enthusiasm, even introduced Frazier as "a true American hero."
Um ... OK.
Let's just say Dobelle is happy to get this guy.
The Olympic experience and the international ties clinched it for a president who has grand schemes and big dreams to make the University of Hawaii the center of the Pacific in every sense of the word.
But before world domination come the everyday duties of your average AD. Frazier is of the new breed, he said. He sees himself as "a CEO of the program." His last job was a minefield. Now, "I got all the nods and all the shakes the way I wanted to see them as we talked about the program."
Dobelle is nodding and shaking and smiling. Frazier had been a rising star at Arizona State. He had experience, a great resume, and then he got stuck in the Alabama mud. Now Dobelle thinks he snagged an all-star off the waiver wire, stole a sleeper in the draft, made the sports deal of the year.
Frazier ignored the first advances, he said, but the search firm called and kept calling. Somebody wanted him, went after him hard, so he listened, asked the questions, heard the plans, dreamed the dreams.
And in the end, at yesterday's beginning, he called Hawaii a "dream job."
In Alabama, a good-bye column accused Frazier of being too monotone, of not having enough passion in his public appearances. And you can tell that public speaking is not his strength. But he'd learned the lesson. For his first impression in Hawaii, Frazier threw himself into the effort.
He knew all the right answers. He said all the right things.
He looked the room in the eye. He pounded the podium. When he spoke of Hugh Yoshida's legacy, Frazier went into the front row to shake the man's hand. When he spoke of meeting June Jones (and I don't want to get this wrong here) Frazier appeared to be all choked up with emotion.
He was already off and sprinting.
Frazier was defensive about his problems at Alabama-Birmingham, saying he inherited some major headaches. He was at UAB for just 20 months. Later, he admitted he would have still been the outsider had he stayed in Alabama for 20 years.
Bad fit. Bad situation. Just watching him, listening to him, talking to him, it all feels like this one might work out just a little better. They know what he can do, and that's why they wanted him. His personality should help, not hurt.
Toward the end of the press conference Frazier noted that he could have the United States' senior director of International Games Preparation here tomorrow "with a telephone call's notice." The statement hung in the air awkwardly for a second, somehow out of place for a man who otherwise seemed so humble.
In Alabama, where college football is king, they couldn't have cared less about such a boast. At the University of Hawaii, the new land of the global athletics director, it was exactly what they wanted to hear.
Kalani Simpson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org