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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 16, 2002

UH can't be myopic in search for AD

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist

How far outside the box is the University of Hawai'i prepared to venture in selecting a new athletic director?

With a few exceptions, the names that have publicly popped up on the radar screen so far are pretty much what you would expect: Some ADs looking to flee bad situations, some assistant ADs seeking to move up, some ex-coaches looking to get into administration, some people taking shots in the dark.

The betting is that if you compared the pool that has expressed an interest, it wouldn't be all that different from those who tried to get a foot in the door at Fresno State or a half dozen jobs of a similar level.

Some places that would be good enough. But for UH, it should just be a starting point. For reasons of geography and timing, there is a need for UH to be more demanding, more inclusive.

The addition of an executive search firm this week, when Eastman & Beaudine Inc. of Dallas is expected to be announced, should help in identifying contenders and weeding out pretenders.

The challenge for UH in the next month and a half, the period by which the school has said it wants to name a successor to Hugh Yoshida, is in where it takes its search from here.

That means giving a good, long look to both non-traditional candidates as well as the traditional ones. On the traditional list, you'd have to start with Jim Donovan, UH associate athletic director the past decade, as someone who merits a long look and a chance to outline his vision. On the non-traditional side, there is Rick Blangiardi, who spent the last 20 years away from UH in television, and offers some interesting possibilities.

And, then, somewhere in between, why not Karl Benson, the Western Athletic Conference commissioner?

WAC officials say Benson will be in town next week for meetings on the new Hawai'i Bowl, just the kind of opening that begs UH to explore the AD possibilities.

Benson is a man who has worked for the NCAA, run a couple of conferences, sat on major committees and negotiated television and sponsorship deals. In eight years of dealing with UH, Benson has come to recognize its strengths and limitations from a wide perspective. Moreover, he's been as much an ally as his position allows.

If UH officials are on their game, they might be able to interest him in jumping into a candidacy with both feet. I mean, how strong a message would it send if UH went out and hired itself a conference commissioner?

If there is no sale to be made there, then Benson's perspective on where UH goes from here would be invaluable to both UH officials and the search committee. Who, in dealing with a cross section of ADs on a regular basis, would have more insight to offer?

But it is up to UH and how much it is willing to step out of the box.