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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2007

UH's Frazier, lawmakers spar over games, facilities

Video: Herman Frazier addresses legislature
StoryChat: Comment on this story

By Ferd Lewis and Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writers

University of Hawai'i athletic director Herman Frazier came face-to-face with state lawmakers during a legislative briefing at the Capitol yesterday, where he revealed plans to complete the 2008 football schedule by the end of summer, among other announcements.

Photos by GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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From left, UH men's basketball coach Bob Nash, WAC Commissioner Karl Benson, UH Chancellor Denise Konan, UH associate wahine basketball coach Pat Charity, UH baseball coach Mike Trapasso (behind Charity), UH football coach June Jones and Frazier prepare to meet Rep. Jerry Chang's committee and the Senate Education committee to discuss the state of the UH athletics department.

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UH athletic director Herman Frazier, flanked by associate athletic director Carl Clapp and Chancellor Denise Konan, responds to Rep. K. Mark Takai's questions regarding the status of Hawai'i's only Division I-A sports program.

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University of Hawai'i athletic director Herman Frazier set a "drop-dead" date for adding a 13th football game to the 2007 schedule, revealed his wish for a 10,000-seat facility at Manoa's Cooke Field, and stated a five-to-seven-year plan to retire the athletic department's accumulated debt of about $2 million.

Those were among the biggest revelations to emerge from a 4-hour, 9-minute session in which members of the Senate and House education committees questioned Frazier on the status of Hawai'i's only Division I-A sports program.

Afterward, Frazier said, "anytime I can explain what we do, it is time well spent, no question in my mind. I think they now have a better understanding about me."

A packed gallery that included coaches June Jones, Mike Trapasso and Bob Nash, Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson and fans turned out for the session prompted by quarterback Colt Brennan's comments to The Advertiser published May 4 about deteriorating conditions at the school's athletic facilities.

The session at the capitol sometimes turned tense and accusatory as legislators, led by Rep. K. Mark Takai, cross-examined Frazier about scheduling, facilities, travel and fiscal responsibility.

The menu of topics expanded well beyond the original focus on soap in the showers and facilities. Lawmakers pressed Manoa Chancellor Denise Konan on how priorities are set for facility renovations and construction, and urged Frazier to make the department's needs known to the Legislature.

Frazier revealed that the drop-dead date for UH to add a 13th game to its 2007 football schedule is the end of this month. He also vowed to complete the 2008 schedule by the end of the summer.

Frazier revealed hopes of expanding Cooke Field, which has a capacity of about 1,000 seats, to a 10,000-seat facility that could host soccer events and high school football games in addition to UH track meets.

Frazier said he is attempting to land a $10 million lead donor to help underwrite the venture. Although he would not name the prospective donor, it is believed to be the Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns and operates several Las Vegas casinos and hotels popular with Hawai'i visitors.

Takai described aging Cooke Field's current conditions as "deplorable" and "a lawsuit waiting to happen." He pressed UH officials for information on how and when the renovations for the facility would be addressed.

Although an auditor's report said the athletic department finished the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2006, in the black for the first time in five years, it was revealed that it is still operating with an accumulated floating debt of about $2 million.

This comes after athletics said it repaid an original $1 million loan from the Manoa chancellor's office dating from 2003, Frazier's first complete fiscal year at UH.

"They paid off the $1 million (loan) but they still have another $2 million to go," Takai said.

Konan said her office will not demand immediate repayment, saying such a measure would stunt the athletic department's financial situation.

"We haven't constrained their growth by making them pay back in a rapid, dramatic fashion," Konan said.

Under questioning, Frazier confirmed that a contract with its 2007 marquee football opponent, Washington, for a Dec. 1 game has yet to be signed. He said details of the contract for the game, which was announced Jan. 19, remain to be resolved but it "is not an issue for us."

Frazier has been the target of enduring public criticism for a 2007 football schedule that remains unfinished despite several self-imposed deadlines. He accepted "full responsibility" for the incomplete schedule and said he now is working "hand in hand" with the WAC and ESPN in attempts to land a 13th opponent for a game at Aloha Stadium. If no opponent is found, the 2007 schedule will feature two Division I-AA opponents, Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern.

Frazier said he was willing to pay up to $750,000 to secure a Division I-A opponent for either the vacant Oct. 20 or Nov. 3 dates. Two Pac-10 schools are among the prospective candidates.

It also was revealed at the hearing that:

  • The athletic department's mauka athletic-training room has restrictive availability because of a "mold issue," associate athletic director Carl Clapp reported. Clapp said water piping inside the room must be moved outside of the building.

  • A wing on the third floor of the athletic complex remains unfinished because of a lack of money. The amount appropriated by the Legislature was only enough to build a shell. UH is seeking private donations to pay for the offices.

  • Despite promises to negotiate with coaches two years in advance of their contract-expiration dates, Frazier acknowledged two head coaches are working without contracts, and football coach June Jones and women's volleyball coach Dave Shoji are approaching the final year of their contracts. Frazier said he and his associates have "started our drafts" on contract proposals to Jones and Shoji.

  • Since July, Frazier has taken 15 trips at a cost of $17,968.53. In all, UH athletic officials spent $40,112.47 on travel.

    Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com and Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.