Hawaii bowl payout stirs beneficiary debate
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By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
It might seem like pocket change at perennial Bowl Championship Series schools such as Ohio State or USC, but the estimated $4.5 million payout the University of Hawai'i stands to receive from appearing in the Sugar Bowl is getting noticed around Manoa.
The bonus money could easily be put to use on a campus with creaky dorms, a storm-damaged Hamilton Library and athletic facilities that are considered substandard for a top-flight football program.
UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and Athletic Director Herman Frazier will meet after the Sugar Bowl to decide how to spend what is left of the payout. Travel, lodging and other expenses for the football team, the band and university officials are expected to take more than $1 million from the bowl payout, if Boise State University's experience at the Fiesta Bowl last season is an indication. Boise State was the first Western Athletic Conference school to play in a BCS game.
"There are thousands of places where it could go," said Christina Stidman, president of the Associated Students at UH-Manoa, who would like to see it split between athletic facilities and classroom repairs and some type of investment where they money could grow for future school improvements.
The push and pull over whether to spend the payout on the athletic department — which is most responsible for the bonus — or the rest of the campus — which is in much need of repair — started soon after the Warriors' come-from-behind victory over the University of Washington that helped send them to the Sugar Bowl.
It would probably not be an issue at all, since the amount of money is marginal in the context of Manoa's budget, but it is symbolic given the university's persistent complaints about aging facilities.
Hinshaw described Manoa in her inaugural address last month as a jewel that is "badly tarnished physically." UH coach June Jones has joked to reporters that the payout could mean new carpeting in his office so his program might look more like a first-class operation to recruits.
WHERE TO SPEND MONEY
At Boise State, there was no doubt that the bulk of the Fiesta Bowl payout would go to the athletic department. Boise State received about $4.5 million after its upset over Oklahoma and had less than $3 million left after expenses.
Most of Boise State's money went toward a new press box and luxury suite complex at Bronco Stadium.
The school used about $500,000 for academic scholarships. "We wanted to be able to give back to the university on the academic side," said Max Corbet, the assistant athletic director for media relations.
Around Manoa, students and alumni have different thoughts about where the Sugar Bowl money should go, but agree it is a nice reward after the Warriors' championship season.
Ren Hirose, president of the board of directors for the UH Alumni Association, said the money could be used to improve campus facilities and provide scholarships.
"From talking to alumni, we agree with the chancellor that the physical structure of the university — the buildings itself — is a priority. The other part is to support the people who want to come to the university, and scholarships could be very helpful in having to meet these financial needs," he said.
Ben Yee, vice president of Na Koa, the Warriors' booster club, believes most of the money should go to the athletic department. "There is so much improvement that needs to be done to the athletic department, not only for football, but for the other sports," he said.
"The people who worked the hardest for it — the players, the staff — they should benefit, shouldn't they?"
In May, state lawmakers quizzed Frazier at a briefing at the state Capitol after Warriors' quarterback Colt Brennan publicly criticized the athletic department's facilities in The Advertiser. The briefing revealed, among other things, that the athletic department was $2 million in debt.
State Rep. K. Mark Takai, D-34th (Newtown, Waiau, Pearl City), a former UH-Manoa swimmer who has taken an active role in monitoring university spending, said the entire Sugar Bowl payout should go to the athletic department. He said the payout, combined with the increased revenue the university is likely receiving from its share of UH apparel such as Brennan replica jerseys and WAC championship T-shirts, should also justify UH forgiving the athletic department's debt.
Takai said he believes in giving incentives for success.
"I liken the Sugar Bowl payout to a UH researcher obtaining a $3 million federal grant," he said. "The researcher gets full access to the grant monies and a significant portion of the indirect cost charges. And just like the $3 million that the researcher obtains, the $3 million or so from the Sugar Bowl would not have been possible without the success of June Jones and his team.
"There is so much that needs to be done, from renovations of deplorable Cooke Field to completion of coaches' offices to upgrades of the locker rooms. Aside from renovations and repairs, we need to pay our coaches what they are worth and we need to provide an adequate recruiting budget to ensure success in future years."
FULL AMOUNT UNKNOWN
State Sen. Norman Sakamoto, D-15th (Waimalu, Airport, Salt Lake), the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said it would make sense for a portion of the Sugar Bowl payout to go toward athletics. He said a wild card for the university is the cost of Jones' new contract. His five-year deal expires in June.
"But we're not supposed to micromanage," Sakamoto said. "I don't think it's up to me, as a legislator, to say exactly how this money should be spent."
Travis Fallon, a UH-Manoa sophomore studying political science, said the money could go to enhance the student fitness center in the athletic complex or toward new athletic programs.
"It's athletics that's getting the money, so if they put it into their own program I understand doing that, but I would like to see it be spent on students," he said.
Gregg Takayama, a UH-Manoa spokesman, said it is premature to speculate on how the Sugar Bowl payout would be spent because the exact amount will not be known until expenses are deducted. The money will not arrive at UH until sometime next year, after WAC administrators divide bowl money among the nine member schools. Boise State did not receive its Fiesta Bowl money until last summer.
"We have no shortage of needs," Takayama said. "The real payout, the real benefit for UH, will not be the actual proceeds from the Sugar Bowl itself.
"The real payout will be if we can somehow translate this overwhelming community support to support from our decision-makers and more resources for our campus to provide a better place for our students to live and work and play."
Reach Derrick DePledge at email@example.com.
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