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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Reward extra effort, not basics

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

OK, he just got here. It's much too soon to be picking on new University of Hawai'i athletic director Herman Frazier, so this isn't about him. It's about the clause in his contract that awards him a $5,000 bonus each year if there are no major NCAA infractions on his watch.

That bonus stands out among the many others in his contract that spell out how much extra money Frazier will make if UH-Manoa teams do well.

For example, if the football team wins a bowl game, Frazier will make $7,500; if the baseball team reaches the College World Series, Frazier gets $10,000. If UH gets into the US News and World Report Top 20, he clears an extra $10,000.

Cool. It's a lot of money, but if Frazier can lead the UH teams to that kind of success, then he certainly deserves to be rewarded.

This clause, though, doesn't reward doing good, but NOT doing bad. That's not so cool.

If no boosters get caught giving money to athletes, if no athletes get caught taking gifts, if no coaches get busted for covering up law-breaking by their players, then the athletic director gets a prize.

Not that the University of Hawai'i has had much of this in the recent past. Herman Frazier is not tasked with "cleaning up" UH athletics. The school's record is already pretty clean.

But this is not about Herman Frazier. This is about a bad idea in general. This is about a community — our community — that has gotten too lax about enforcing basic responsibility and too weary to expect total integrity.

It's like telling a kid he gets a new bike if he doesn't flunk out of school, get picked up by a truant officer, or get busted for bringing contraband to school in his Scooby-Doo lunch box.

Incentives are supposed to encourage good behavior, not make bad behavior less tempting. Punishment is what discourages bad behavior.

Where's Dr. John Rosemond when you need him?

Let's hope the idea doesn't catch on. Let's hope it doesn't become a new standard in employment contracts.

Like offering a bonus to prison officials if no guards violate the rights of prisoners in their cellblocks.

Or like giving a cash reward to employees who don't steal from the till.

Or politicians getting a special bonus if they obey all campaign spending rules.

We should expect people to want to do their best, reward them for accomplishments, and set clear disincentives for breaking rules or condoning bad behavior.

This isn't about Herman Frazier. But given Hawai'i's proclivity to put anyone from UH athletics on a pedestal, we need to remind ourselves that in the real world, following the rules is expected — and taking care of your kuleana is basic, not bonus.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.