Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 19, 2010

It's back to drawing board ... again

By Ferd Lewis

Staring at the likelihood of a $10.1 million accumulated net deficit by the end of June and a financial model ill-suited to do much about it anytime soon in a bad economy, University of Hawai'i athletic director Jim Donovan offered an observation to the Board of Regents yesterday:

"We probably should have had this conversation six years ago when everything was flush with money," Donovan said.

Well, actually they pretty much did.

Not Donovan, who was running the Hawai'i Bowl at the time, exactly, or these same regents to a man, but his predecessor and a group of earlier regents.

In the same John A. Burns School of Medicine building, where the regents met yesterday, a different group of regents peered at another independent auditor's report that had the identical conclusion of athletic department finances being "very fragile."

The date was April 22, 2005. The auditor's recommendation: "the department needs a plan."

Two years before that, when deficits first went back-to-back, still another group of regents requested a plan.

And so it was again yesterday that amid UH's seventh deficit in eight years Donovan was asked to go to the drawing board and return at an unspecified date with, you guessed it, "a plan."

Regents chairman Howard Karr, a former First Hawaiian Bank executive, and his 12 fellow regents, most of whom have business backgrounds, seemed genuinely concerned with UH's financial plight. They challenged Donovan to run athletics "like a business."

That, for a state and NCAA-governed entity, is a challenge to be sure. One whose successful solution demands not only that Donovan be innovative but that the rest of the UH administration roll up its sleeves on, too. And that the regents relentlessly stay on top of.

Exclude nothing from the discussion table, however heretofore sacred. Student fees, parking receipts, logo sales, everything should be kicked around. And don't let it fade to the back burner, again.

Standing before the regents yesterday, Donovan noted wryly, "... typically, sometimes when things get really bad economically, that's when all the bodies float to the surface, so to speak."

In this case, you could definitely say the skeletons of a too-often inattentive past have come back to haunt UH.