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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2007

UH fans still won't be heard

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

When the vocal majority of the Stan Sheriff Center crowd booed University of Hawai'i athletic director Herman Frazier at Riley Wallace's aloha game in March, it was more than a raspberry-laced commentary on the basketball coach's forced departure and other topical issues.

It also was illustrative of how few opportunities the stakeholders in the seats have to make their points on operations of the athletic department live and what lengths they will go to convey them to the people in power.

So when the state Legislature announced plans to convene an informational briefing with the Manoa athletic department next week, the hope was that public testimony would not only be welcome but encouraged. That fans of the state's only Division I athletic program who underwrite the venture through ticket purchases and state taxes, would be allowed to share their ideas, suggestions and concerns.

Instead, a spokesperson said "no public testimony will be permitted."

That's regrettable on a number of levels but particularly because when the House Higher Education Committee and Senate Education Committee jointly meet Monday at 2 p.m. in room 309 at the Capitol many of the prime movers and shakers will be assembled in one place at one time specifically to discuss UH issues.

In one sitting you have the folks who not only call the shots at UH but the people who hold the purse strings downtown. People who should have an interest in what fans think and what their concerns are.

Legislators will be able to question Frazier and UH officials but it would be advance testimony by fans that would lend perspective to the proceedings and give lawmakers a sense of priorities and prevailing concerns as the public views them.

Fans, some of whom say they feel disenfranchised, don't have many opportunities to state their opinions with the powers that be. Beyond direct e-mail, call-in radio shows, on-line postings and letters to the editor are their best existing opportunities to make feelings public.

Meetings like this don't come around often, which is a reason why some thought should be given to opening up to public testimony. It doesn't have to be a marathon session and, indeed, at 2 p.m. on a Monday, you probably aren't going to get a long line of speakers. But the opportunity would at least be presented.

It is commendable that the legislature has chosen to look into what it has termed, "the state of the (UH) athletic department." Well overdue, too, since who can remember the last time an opening like this occurred?

All it needs is a public voice to the process. Fans shouldn't have to wait until Frazier's next appearance at center court or have to resort to a hail of boos to get their message across.

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