Hawaii AD dealing with disgruntled supporters


POSTED: Friday, September 04, 2009

Jim Donovan wanted to start a fire yesterday, not put one out.

On the eve of the season opener for football, Hawaii had distributed around 30,000 tickets for its game tonight against Central Arkansas. “;Who?,”; you say. Yes, Central Arkansas ... and therein lies a big part of why 40 percent of the seats were still available — despite a national ranking and BCS bowl-game appearance two seasons ago and status as the only college football team in a football-crazy state, UH still relies heavily on the drawing power of its opponents to fill Aloha Stadium.

So, Donovan intended to spend yesterday doing what he could to bang the drum and remind the casual fans that the game is on Friday, not Saturday, and the stadium is the place to be.

Instead, the second-year athletic director ended up playing customer service rep on a statewide radio broadcast.

What can only be described as carelessness disguised as being victim to technology resulted in fans who paid for parking passes not getting them, and being told that the money they paid for those passes would not be refunded for four to six weeks.

Maybe you were not among the 400 people directly affected. I wasn't, but it irritates me even thinking about it.

Just in case the standard for customer service had changed recently without me realizing it, I asked the young optician at Sears who I just paid for glasses and contact lenses on order what would happen if those products were suddenly not available.

“;Would I be refunded immediately?”;

“;Yes, sir, immediately,”; he replied. “;As long as you have your receipt.”;

That's what I thought.

TO HIS credit, Donovan fielded the complaints like a pro. Then he addressed the problem quickly. He called me before I could call him, and said the wheels were in motion for much quicker refunds — by next Friday for credit card purchasers, probably another week for those who paid by check.

“;Taking people's money without providing them the service is not my way of doing things,”; Donovan said. “;We'll do it by hand in the future if we have to.”;

The 400 still aren't getting the prized parking spots they were led to believe they'd paid for. Because season-ticket sales did not improve from last year, UH officials did not think the demand for the “;inner circle”; parking spots would increase. It did, and in addition to taking a public relations hit the day before the start of the season, the department failed to take advantage of a revenue stream at a time when every dollar is needed.

IF NOT for the parking pickle, I would have devoted more of today's space on this: Why, exactly, is this game being played on a Friday? Whatever you didn't like about Herman Frazier, Donovan's predecessor rarely caved on moving football from Saturday. Donovan, however, had little choice. When Frazier was fired in January 2008, he left an opening on the 2009 slate and Donovan was left with few options.

That means you have few options other than to leave for the stadium very early today, Friday afternoon traffic being what it is. And that's whether you're part of the parking “;inner circle”; or not.