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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 20, 2007

AD finally comes out in the open

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Wherever you clicked your television the other day, there was University of Hawai'i athletic director Herman Frazier. Or so it seemed.

Maybe it was a mirage brought on by all the sudden exposure but wasn't that Frazier on the National Geographic Channel and Home Shopping Network, too?

Apparently, there's nothing like a summons to the state capitol to stir a reclusive athletic director from his burrow, inspiring action and answers.

It was Frazier as we've rarely seen him of late: talking into cameras, answering reporters' questions and addressing the issues of the day. Announcing a football game, a facilities renovation. ... It was the way it should be when you're the AD of the state's only Division I athletic program.

You wonder if Frazier had been this visible and outgoing over the course of the past year if there would have even been the need for an informational meeting with the combined state House Higher Education Committee and Senate Education Committee tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Capitol. Probably not.

There has been the sentiment at UH that the whole thing is a witch hunt. But that would be to misread the situation. Most legislators want what we've all been seeking; answers about what is —and what isn't — going on at UH. After the scheduling debacle, and quarterback Colt Brennan's statements about facilities, people want an accounting from the man in charge. Not snippets delivered through a spokeswoman.

The difference is that legislators control the purse strings of the university, and when they request somebody's presence, they get it.

As one legislator put it, "I've seen heads from all the other departments of the university down here to tell us what is going on, but I don't think I've ever seen Mr. Frazier in these halls."

This is not a new complaint, of course. When Frazier was the AD at Alabama-Birmingham, his stop previous to UH, he was known by some as the "absentee AD" for his frequent travel and perception of hermitic ways.

When Frazier took over at UH going on five years now, he promised openness and accessibility. But somewhere along the line both seem to have dwindled. And that's too bad for all concerned. Frazier's administration has done some good things and is pushing some promising initiatives, like electronic ticketing and a new parking scheme, but they can get overshadowed by things that could have been publicly addressed sooner rather than later.

While it remains to be seen what tomorrow's meeting at the capitol will bring, it should already be deemed a success in at least one regard. The message that the UH athletic director needs to be more out front and up front seems to have gotten through.

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