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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

A dream ticket: UH, McClain

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Long before men's basketball coach Riley Wallace knew David McClain as his boss at the University of Hawai'i, he had been well acquainted with him as an adjacent season-ticket holder in section "J" at Aloha Stadium.

"He's been there with us for several years," said Wallace, who sold McClain two of his tickets, "back to when he was in the business (school) at the university."

Time enough, Wallace said, to know that the Board of Regents yesterday naming McClain the school's permanent president through 2009 bodes well for the athletic department. "He's just a very good fit for this school," Wallace said.

But you don't have to have sat seven rows up with him at UH football games or about 12 rows up in the Stan Sheriff Center, where his basketball seats are located, to see McClain's continued presence in Bachman Hall as a good sign for the state's Division I programs.

In the nearly two years McClain has been UH's interim president, he has shown himself to be both a strong backer and articulate spokesman for athletics' importance to the university and state. He has been a man capable of balancing the academic mission and "athletic enterprise" as he is wont to call it.

Indeed, one of the first things McClain did upon replacing Evan Dobelle as UH president in 2004 was meet with athletic department staff and coaches to assure them his commitment would pick up where his predecessors' left off.

McClain's continuation of that commitment and, where it concerns Western Athletic Conference membership, hopefully a step up, will be important to UH's future.

Admittedly McClain will have an already overflowing plate as president. Yet UH and the WAC could use his background and presence at its highest level of conference decision making. When interim Manoa Chancellor Denise Konan steps down in July, UH will have gone through four WAC directors in six years in a position where continuity is desperately needed, especially since UH is now the WAC's senior member and conference affiliation is a critical element in the school's future.

Since Dobelle's arrival in 2001, UH's seat on the WAC Board of Directors has gone to the Manoa chancellor. With Konan's appointment expiring comes the logical opening for McClain to step in, all the more so since it will be UH's turn in the rotation to assume the WAC presidency for the July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007, academic year.

No current administrator on the upper campus is more well versed in athletics and aware of its environment than McClain. No new one could get up to speed fast enough.

"I have the impression that he's a friend of athletics and a true fan," said Mike Trapasso, UH baseball coach.

One UH definitely needs coming to bat for it in the WAC.

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