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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 21, 2002

UH athletics aspires to be major player this year

This is the first of two parts

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Fresh from a 9-3 football season, coming off the most successful men's basketball start in 30 years and looking ahead to the return of Lily Kahumoku in Wahine volleyball, there is barely tethered optimism surrounding University of Hawai'i athletics these days.

June Jones, left, wants his Warriors football team to be a perennial "Top 20-type program," and that's just the kind of thinking that fuels the dreams of University of Hawai'i president Evan Dobelle, right.

Photo illustration by Martha Hernandez • The Honolulu Advertiser; Advertiser library photos

Fanned by the dreaming out loud of their new president, Evan Dobelle, whose self-described job mandate is, "to make dreams come true," the Rainbows and their fans are significantly raising the bar on hopes and expectations.

At a school that has had just one Top 20 finish in football (1992), head coach June Jones has talked of playing Florida, Southern California, etc. and making the Warriors a perennial "Top 20-type program."

In a sport where UH hasn't gone to an NCAA regional in eight seasons, new baseball coach Mike Trapasso has set his sights on building a program that is a regular participant.

At an institution that hasn't finished higher then 68th in Sears Cup competition in the past eight years, there is the challenge of trying to approach Stanford's across-the-board excellence.

Those kind of goals require a significant infusion of money, a 25-percent hike in the athletic department budget to $20 million just for starters, athletic director Hugh Yoshida says.

The school currently spends approximately $16 million on its 19-sport program. But all of the top-20 finishers in the most recent Sears Cup competition, which ranks schools on the strength of their finishes in 20 men's and women's sports, spent at least $20 million — some double that.

Money is tangible reward

And costs are expected to rise significantly. Dobelle has said he expects to pay well to retain and attract good people.

"Whether it is athletics or sociology, the only way you can tangibly give respect to people is not telling them you respect them, you have to pay them," Dobelle said. "Otherwise, it is just rhetoric."

For the past month UH has been negotiating a contract extension with Jones that is expected to rise well above the $320,000 plus incentives he currently receives. Perhaps into the $500,000 range.

Jones, who lost defensive coordinator Greg McMackin to Texas Tech and a $250,000 deal two years ago, is asking for raises that will allow him to keep his assistants, two of whom reportedly already receive six figure salaries.

Jones' wish list

Jones is reportedly also asking UH to build a FieldTurf practice field, take a closer look at charter flights, take over the operation of Aloha Stadium and make other commitments to having a competitive team.

And, that's just the beginning. Not far off is the day when UH will also have to ante up for a new athletic director. Estimates are it will cost upwards of $200,000 — nearly twice what Yoshida is receiving.

UH men's basketball coach Riley Wallace, at a base salary of less than $120,000, is among the lowest-paid in the Western Athletic Conference and in line for a raise. Wallace turned 60 last year and sometime down the road when UH goes shopping for a replacement, the cost will likely be three times what he is making.

"If you're going to be a first-class athletic program, you've got to pay for it," said James Burns, head of Ahahui Koa Anuenue, the athletic booster organization. "Would you rather pay more for June Jones or (less) for the coach before (Fred vonAppen)?"

• • • 

Tomorrow: Where UH will look first for financial help.