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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

UH freezes several positions in athletics

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Jim Donovan

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When the late Stan Sheriff was the University of Hawai'i athletic director he called secretary Margie Okimoto "irreplaceable."

But when Okimoto retires at the end of this month after 40 years at the school most of it in athletics it won't be the inability to find a successor that keeps the position open.

It will be a hiring freeze designed to limit the amount of red ink in which the department is wading.

Athletic director Jim Donovan said at least five "administrative-type" posts, including that of Okimoto, who is his secretary, are going unfilled as the department attempts to save money. Donovan said he projects a savings of $395,911 in salary and benefits this year by freezing the positions.

Four other positions two assistant football coaches and two athletic trainers have been or will be filled because Donovan said, "they directly impact student-athletes."

Officials, citing the impact of a declining economy on revenue, have said the athletic department is staring at the possibility of a "$2 million to $3 million" deficit for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2009.

The UH Board of Regents may chose to inquire about the state of the current budget and measures to reduce debt Friday when it is scheduled to review an independent auditor's report of department finances for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008.

Although the audit report has yet to be released, it is expected to show as much as a $300,000 surplus for 2008-09 thanks to a $4,385,555 payment for the Warriors' appearance in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Much if not all of the $300,000 was expected to go to retiring a portion of the more than $4 million net deficit accumulated over five previous years.

Donovan declined comment on the audit pending the regents' meeting. University spokespersons have declined to say into what areas the regents might delve.

Meanwhile, Donovan said position freezes and operating cutbacks are a necessity. "I know it (the hiring freeze) creates a hardship on the remaining administrative staff having to do the work with less people but it is the most immediate and fiscally responsive thing we can do, so we're doing it."

Donovan said layoffs and cutting sports would be a last resort. "We don't want to lay anyone off or look at dropping sports, but based upon the the financial conditions we'll do whatever we have to do," Donovan said.

He added, "we'll certainly feel the loss of Margie, who has worked with six athletic directors and does a super job, but the fact is we need to save some money right now."

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.