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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 13, 2008

Play clock ticking as UH tries to recover

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

David McClain

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Virginia Hinshaw

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The University of Hawai'i entered the New Year as a glistening inspiration to so-called mid-major athletic programs everywhere.

The football team had achieved a Bowl Championship Series breakthrough, earning a berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the backs of UH administrators were being slapped up one end of Canal Street and down the other in New Orleans.

Now, less than two weeks later, UH is a laughingstock, a riches-to-rags example of what not to do. At the same Superdome where UH played Georgia a week earlier, athletic administrators gathered for the Bowl Championship Series national title game Monday were shaking their heads about the dizzying turn of events that saw head coach June Jones resign for a less-than-lateral move to Southern Methodist and the school oust athletic director Herman Frazier.

Perhaps not since the turmoil of NCAA sanctions and their fallout in the 1970s has UH athletics faced a more pivotal week than the one that now dawns. It is a period that will go a long way toward telling us whether the Warriors take the first confident steps toward making up ground or fall further and, perhaps irreparably behind.

As such, Job One is to hire a football coach. Preferable among the announced candidates is UH defensive coordinator Greg McMackin, who can provide both continuity and a steadying influence for a program that needs a large measure of both on the double.

The composition of the selection committee that was announced Friday suggests McMackin's name is the one likely to eventually emerge. If so, the sooner the better to act upon it because the calendar says it is the stretch drive of the football recruiting season with the Feb. 6 national letter of intent day speedily approaching and prospective recruits already making oral commitments.

This is no time to stand on bureaucratic niceties, indulging in the kind of plodding process that, if permitted to play out, can render what stacks up as an already challenging 2008 season disastrous.

UH President David McClain and Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw have promised to find the fastest avenue through the vaunted red tape that surrounds the institution. And, after the crisis of command and commitment that has taken place so far, they have ample reason to make good on the pledge.

It is also time to get cracking on choosing an athletic director, one who can give football much-needed support in getting back on its feet while keeping the rest of the 19-sport athletic department from taking a step backward. But filling the football position is critical and timing is becoming everything.

Already the perception, far and wide, is that UH football, if not the athletic program in general, is in a deepening tailspin. One in which there are doubts UH will pull itself out of anytime soon. In Boise, Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman recently observed, UH was down with "...quite possibly, no chance of sustaining the incredible success it enjoyed this season." It is an accurate reading and hardly a minority opinion around the Western Athletic Conference or nationally.

It was a failure of leadership and commitment that helped plunge UH into the straits it now finds itself. It will take inspired and innovative leadership for UH to dig itself out of them. This week that starts at the top.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.