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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2010

Joining Pac-10 an ambitious, costly goal

Perhaps now is not the best time for the University of Hawai'i to submit an application to join the Pac-10 Conference.

With the athletics department facing a $10 million budget shortfall, it's hard to imagine how UH could pay for the postage, much less sell itself as a credible member of a rich and influential athletic conference that includes such powerhouses as Cal, UCLA and USC.

Nonetheless, the possibilities and potential consequences of a Pac-10 expansion were not lost on UH athletic director Jim Donovan, who placed an exploratory call to Pac-10 officials on UH's behalf. Surely there's nothing wrong with setting ambitious, if admittedly difficult, goals.

The conference is exploring options to expand for the first time in 32 years. Such a move would no doubt roil the waters at other conferences, including UH's current home, the Western Athletic Conference. The ripple effects in terms of competition and money could be profound.

Of course, membership in the Pac-10 would bring UH not only a larger measure of prestige, but also a larger measure of money through shared revenues. It's unfortunate that in its current state, UH athletics has little to offer in return. A relatively small TV market, high travel costs and too many weak teams leave UH at a competitive disadvantage.

If UH is serious about the long-term success of its athletics program, it will need the kind of money and support a Pac-10 can provide. So it will have to choose: a focused plan to strengthen its athletics by raising and spending more money, or ruthless cutbacks that threaten its Division I status.

We prefer the former, with clear benchmarks for progress and the will to hold Donovan and his staff accountable for meeting them. So far, both of these essential elements have been lacking. That needs to change.

It took many years and a commitment that began with Gov. John A. Burns to bring UH athletics this far. It will take a similar commitment to reach the next level of athletic excellence.