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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 19, 2010

UH athletics seeks outside aid

 •  Students could help fund operations


By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Without assistance, it will take "two to four years" for the University of Hawai'i athletic department to end its reliance on deficit spending, athletic director Jim Donovan said yesterday.

But with help, "depending on the amount of assistance, we could end it much sooner," said Donovan, who made it clear he was looking for a helping hand from the university system, Mānoa campus, state or all of the above to balance the budget.

The UH Board of Regents yesterday challenged Donovan to come back with a plan to bring the 19-sport program back into the black and begin slicing into what is projected to be a $10.1 million accumulated net deficit by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

UH, which had a $2.6 million annual deficit for the fiscal year that closed June 30, 2009, has run at a deficit seven of the past eight years and the regents "want it run more like a business," said chairman Howard Karr, a former First Hawaiian Bank executive.

But regents left open the possibility of assistance with Karr saying, "I would like to see what his strategies are going to be and what kind of support he is going to need from, say, the regents or the state or the Mānoa campus."

Donovan, who inherited an accumulated deficit of more than $5 million when he took over in March 2008 and then saw the downturn of the economy said, "I don't think (UH) should run at a deficit. I mean, I have an MBA from the University of Hawai'i."

But Donovan also said, "I think the case I'm trying to make is that the state, the UH system and Mānoa campus, combined, need to come up with a greater percentage of our budget."

Athletics currently generates about 81 percent of the money needed to run the $30 million operation, getting nearly 19 percent from the school. UH said its peer institutions receive, on average, 50 percent of their operating funds from outside.

"I'm 100 percent of the belief that we have to run a balanced budget, I just don't think the (current) model is good," Donovan said. "If we have to do it all on our own, it is going to take some time. We've already started looking at the projection for next year and I know it (a balanced budget) isn't going to be next year."

Donovan said, "this is not for the athletic director to tell people up the chain of command how this should all be solved; this is to point out the situation and the issues and work with everybody to come up with a solution."

Mānoa Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw said, "it is going to take a multi-pronged approach to balance the budget. It is not going to be one solution."

She said the $66 million in cuts from state funds the Mānoa campus has absorbed has limited what it might be able to do to help athletics.

Donovan said a student activity fee that athletics could share in is among his priority initiatives. But regent Grant Teichman, a former Mānoa student body president, cautioned students will want value after opposing a previous athletic department proposal for a student fee.

Teichman suggested athletics might want to "sweeten" any proposal with increased access for students to athletic facilities, such as Duke Kahanamoku Pool.

"Our goal is to work collaboratively with the students," said associate athletic director Carl Clapp.

Overall, Donovan said, "it seemed like there was a wide understanding of our situation (by the regents) and a realization of our issues, so, I thought, that was a positive step."