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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 2, 2010

An arena full of incentives for Arnold


By Ferd Lewis

"I'd be very surprised in two years if there are any seats left. ... By golly, people had better start buying their tickets now. Our major goal is to sell that place out." Frank Arnold, 1985

A quarter-century after his father pledged to sell out University of Hawai'i men's home basketball games, new head coach Gib Arnold will be the first one promised a bonus for doing it.

An indication of the emphasis financially-strapped UH is placing on getting crowds back in the Stan Sheriff Center is that Arnold's agreement will pay him a $3,000 incentive bonus for each sellout with the exception of the Diamond Head Classic, an ESPN-owned event.

The provision was included in a list of performance incentives released by the school yesterday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The Advertiser and others.

UH said the three-year contract has yet to be executed and the terms released yesterday were part of a major terms agreement signed by Arnold and UH athletic director Jim Donovan on March 19, the date Arnold was announced as Bob Nash's successor.

Arnold is believed to be the only UH head coach with a provision that makes cash awards for sellouts. Neither Nash nor his predecessor, Riley Wallace, had such clauses. Nor does football coach Greg McMackin.

But Arnold probably shouldn't spend any of that $3,000 just yet. UH has gone six seasons since its last sellout, the 2004 National Invitation Tournament victory over Nebraska, and averaged just 3,193 at the turnstiles this season.

That's a lot of empty seats to work with in the 10,300-seat arena, which remains one of UH's under-tapped sources of revenue.

If Arnold can lure back fans, he stands to be well rewarded beyond his $240,000 annual base salary. He can, for example, receive a $10,000 bonus if season tickets sales hit 4,500.

In addition, there is a $4,000 bonus for every regular season or conference tournament win on national TV, and $5,000 for winning the DH Classic.

They go to Donovan's philosophy of keeping base salaries low and "incentivizing performance so that when the school wins, the coach wins."

But there is also a clause that Arnold can be terminated (with pay) for "having two or more consecutive seasons of more losses than wins."

Increasingly, the bottom line is the bottom line at UH.