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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, October 22, 2005

Tomey's wake-up call recalled

 •  Friendly football rivalry set to begin

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

SAN JOSE, Calif. A little more than three years ago, then-University of Hawai'i President Evan Dobelle was awakened by an early morning phone call at his College Hill residence.

When he picked up the receiver, there was an irate Dick Tomey at the other end demanding to know, in several well-chosen words, just how he had been passed over for the athletic director job that went to Herman Frazier without so much as an interview.

Today, instead of watching over UH's athletic department bottom line, Tomey, as San Jose State's first-year head football coach, will be trying to pierce the Warriors' offensive and defensive lines.

Rather than guiding UH's fortunes, the 67-year-old Tomey will be trying to sink them in a Western Athletic Conference game for the 2-4 Warriors and 1-5 Spartans.

In the process of preparing for their game and the heat of their four-quarter meeting, you wonder if the AD situation of 2002 flickers in Tomey's memory. If there is a lingering "what if ..." somewhere in the back of his mind.

Tomey claims not, saying this week, "I'm grateful I didn't get it. If I had, I wouldn't have this (SJSU) job. And, I'm thrilled to have this job."

That's vintage Tomey, of course, culling a positive out of a negative and moving on to the challenge at hand. But it doesn't obscure the fact that Tomey was shabbily treated by a school he had done so much for in a decade (1977-86) as football coach.

So, when Hugh Yoshida resigned in 2002, the rumor around town denied by Dobelle then and yesterday was that Tomey had been promised the job as soon as the formality of a search played out. Speculation had been that the job was Tomey's until Frazier's folder from the search firm hit Bachman Hall.

Regardless, Tomey did not get an interview before the selection committee and, according to two people involved in the process who asked not to be named because of confidentiality pledges, he was not among the 10 finalists.

"I felt, in the end, Dick was not treated properly in the process," said Paul Costello, who was a UH vice president and member of the search committee.

"I think Dick Tomey is a great coach and Herman Frazier is a great AD and there is a difference," Dobelle said.

When Tomey called, at what Dobelle said, "was 4 or 5 in the morning, I listened to him and told him I cared about him but that this was a process that had gone through scrutiny by 17 citizens in Hawai'i and that I had not been involved in it," Dobelle said.

Dobelle said Tomey called back a week later and apologized for the wake-up call.

"And I said I thought he would have been a strong candidate but they evidently felt that, though he was a strong candidate, there were stronger ones," Dobelle said.

Would Tomey have made a better AD than an adversary on the sidelines? We'll never know.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.