I fail to understand why Hawaii’s citizenry, quick to lambaste government for profligate spending, keeps giving a pass to the UH Board of Regents and President David Lassner, which will  put the school athletic program  $9.3 million in the hole next year to keep a  mediocre-at-best football program alive.

People set aside the vitriol they aim at our rail project, the Second City concept, the never-finished airport upgrades and the salary increases for public workers. Hey, if it’s for football, that’s okay!

Not even great football. We are not, nor unlikely ever will be, a competitor on the major NCAA gridirons. We don’t draw marquee players from high schools. They go where games are played in Mainland prime time and they can be seen by scouts. They go where quarterbacks are franchise players and can help them look fantastic as pass receivers or run blockers.

UH is peewee football. Well, except for those incredible salaries we throw out as bait for a mediocre coach with some background our local sports writers can swoon over. “Coach William “Smitty” Smith had two winning seasons as head coach at Gallant College for Slow Learners.”

The UH football proponents will claim that a good football team supported by the fans at the turnstiles causes the wealthy to put up big bucks for the salary for a coach unable to hold up some major football school for more than $100,000 as an offensive line coach.

UH dumped football back in 1951 under coach Hank Vasconcellos. The team had been given a public thumbs down, too, by Gov. John Burns when he first came into office in 1962. Later, he’d become a #1 fan

When we became a state in 1959, we were worse at football than the University of Alaska — the territory that beat us to a star on the flag.

When UH was playing pre-61, the school sold sponsorships to pay the bill for Mainland colleges coming here and our local expenses. Sometimes. the gate didn’t cover that and the sponsor got hit with paying up.

Today, if the well-heeled supporters don’t come up with the heavy money to cover competitor airfares and expenses for play-at-home and the airfare and hotel bills for play-away incurred by our team, then it has to come out of the UH budget for education. The loss can be as high as $3 million year over year.

I’d much rather see that money going into UH’s prime mission, which is not producing football players.

It’s a rare UH player who makes it into the pros. Most are not great scholars, either, and may end up selling used cars after four years on scholarship.

One notable exception during my time as a part-time journalism teacher at UH was Howard Dashefsky, now a promising anchorman at KHON-TV. He was a spectacular baseball player. I asked him why he was taking journalism. He said “only about 1% of college players make it into the pros. If I don’t make it, I want to have something else I can do.” He didn’t make it and he does have something else he can do — and very well.

I thought UH president Lassner, an enlightened administrator, would stop this splurge of money on a consistently mediocre football program.

Nope. He bought right in.



Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

9 replies on “Money Down A Hole In A Football Field”

  1. I feel that you are wrong. Normally football makes a large profit which is used to support the many athletic programs that drain the budget. Do your research before you write your next article.

  2. John Burns wasn’t the governor in 1951. There wasn’t a governor in 1951. We were still a territory.

  3. Bob, you’re missing the mark here. That potential $9.3M shortfall is for the entire athletic program and that’s assuming UH doesn’t get to play football this season. Football actually makes money and supports the other athletic programs at the university. You are missing the bigger picture of what the value is of athletics to any educational program. Are you suggesting that all colleges and high schools should drop their entire athletic programs if they aren’t financially self-sufficient?

  4. You clearly were not an athlete if you believe that the only reason you play competitive sports is to be a national champion. By your logic, the only programs worth supporting are the Alabamas and LSUs of the world.

  5. I agree that you are missing the whole point of athletic programs. Those of us who have played football and other sports understand it is one of the major factors of developing a positive character to enter into the world of adulthood. I think the whole trend of extravagant amounts of money paid coaches, building elaborate athletic facilities and now perhaps players, etc.. is detracting from the value to an individual.

  6. What about the stadium? There are plans to demolish and rebuild it at our expense. It should be the fans (and office pool gamblers) who pay for it.

  7. It’s a very strange defect of our Society. While hundreds of thousands of Americans are homeless, worry about their next rent payment or wait on long lines for a food bank handout, profession teams hand out multi-million dollar salaries like candy. How do we ignore and accept any child without a home, not getting proper meals but think it’s just fine to pay 50-million..that’s FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS…to one guy to catch a football?? As a society we have lost our way. (And no one please give me the “it’s a private business” argument. There are NO true private professional athletic businesses. They all get more government hand-outs than any welfare recipient.)

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