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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 7, 2002

We'll see if Lingle also becomes major player

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Legend has it that then-Gov. John Burns was so disgusted with a University of Hawai'i football game that he changed the face of athletics at the school.

Dismayed by a lengthening string of blowout losses, meager crowds and adminis-trative indifference in the 1960s, Burns is said to have sought out UH President Thomas Hamilton and pointedly directed him to "either field a (competitive) team or forget it."

It would be the birth of UH athletics as we have come to know them, a $16 million, 19-sport program that has become the sports focal point for the state.

Burns, however, did more than issue an ultimatum that day. He also rolled up his sleeves and put the considerable weight of his administration behind giving UH a major college program. He tasked his administrative assistant, Dan Aoki, to enlist other power brokers in the growing vision. Burns lobbied other Western governors to help get UH in the Western Athletic Conference and he laid the groundwork for a place for UH to play, Aloha Stadium.

It would be the beginning of involvement by a long line of governors who — for better or worse — have, at times, taken a hands-on interest in athletics.

Now, with Linda Lingle the governor-elect in a state where sports and politics are anything but strange bedfellows, the sports world wonders what kind of a role she might assume.

Her predecessors left their marks in varying degrees.

• George Ariyoshi took in the Rainbows' 1980 College World Series appearance and helped get Les Murakami Stadium built. He also was cited in the 1977 NCAA Committee on Infractions' report for giving a basketball player $65 "to reimburse him for $65 stolen from" the player's room.

• John Waihee put his weight behind the building of the Stan Sheriff Center and other campus projects and was a regular spectator in his field-level box at baseball games.

• Ben Cayetano used his office to bring sponsors and UH together. When football coach Fred vonAppen and his staff boycotted a fund-raising event, it led to a public spat. When June Jones was hired, his public introduction was made at Washington Place. More recently, Cayetano has attempted to broker the turf wars at Aloha Stadium.

Enter Lingle, who along with the office, steps into one of the most challenging periods in local sports. There is the on-going turf war, the issue of UH's operation of Aloha Stadium, the question of UH's future, the battle to keep the Pro Bowl and the necessity of retaining and securing other major events.

Lingle has experience in dealing with major events. As Maui mayor, she was a major player in bringing the Hula Bowl to the Valley Isle in 1997, and perpetuating the Maui Invitational basketball tournament.

"Her position bodes well, in my opinion, for all athletics in the state of Hawai'i," said Wayne Duke, director of the Maui Invitational.

Lenny Klompus, Lingle's campaign communications director and past operator of the Hula, Aloha and O'ahu bowls, said, "her involvement (in sports) hasn't been one-sided. It has been very collaborative. She'd say, 'we'll do this for your event and you need to to this for Maui County, etc.' "

Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, UH assistant athletic director, has known Lingle since their days together on Maui in the 1980s. "I believe she will be supportive of UH athletics for what it means to the community and what it can do for the economy," said Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano

Now, we've got four years to see where Lingle and her administration take their place among Hawai'i's sporting governors.