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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A SIMPLE SOLUTION FOR UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII ATHLETICS

While the title of this posting seems focused on only a limited local matter, the simple solution to be provided has universal application.  Anyway, for the matter of University of Hawaii (UH) athletics, I've said it again and again.   And again.  You can click on those links, but before I give it again, let me provide some background.

All three UH teams lost this weekend.  The Rainbow Wahine volleyball team got eliminated by Washington, again.  Both basketball teams, showing some early promise, were beaten.

Our (I still have an office on the Manoa Campus) basketball coach, Gib Arnold, was recently fired, their best player quit, went pro and a top freshman transferred.  Plus, NCAA sanctions are soon expected.  

Our football team.  They missed getting into any postseason bowl, again.  At least they won four football games, which is the best in some time.  Coach Norman Chow is expected to retain his job, but that is because he has another year or two left on his contract and buying him out when the school lost $3.5 million this year makes anything creative impossible.  Our local donors are getting tired and not all that much interested in helping.  Not that there is much to tap from anyway.  Oh, the team begins the season next fall at Ohio State and Wisconsin.

As a result, Athletic Director Ben Jay will announce his retirement today.  I gave him zero chance anyway, for the school did not listen to me on who to hire.  That's Jay to the left of me at the Navy football game a year ago.  It was cold.  

Basically, Hawaii, with negligible industries, is too small and remote to consistently field excellent athletic teams (save for women's volleyball--one person like David Shoji can make a difference) nor to become a great university using our resources and political connections, something we totally lost when Senator Dan Inouye passed away.  

We do have cachet value, being the interface between East and West, and, to quote Mark Twain:

  The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.

So do we give up and accept mediocrity?  Of course not!!!  Gloom and despair are almost necessary requirements these days to do anything at least halfway innovative.  There is opportunity in hopelessness.  We now wallow in it.

Indubitably, the solution, at least initially for athletics, is to have a benefactor, like the University of Oregon, with Phil Knight of Nike, and Oklahoma State University, with T. Boone Pickens.  Their teams are exceptional only because a rich person, who happened to be an alumnus, has legally provided all the funds that were needed.  In Hawaii, coaches and boosters have to cheat to do well.  Well, Coach Dave had that special  quality and Hawaii is a volleyball state.

As far as I know, there is no mega-billionaire who can say he/she graduated from the UH.  No matter, there is Larry Ellison, who owns most of Lanai, and has the Larry Ellison Foundation which last year processed $72.2 million of his money.  He is worth $52 billion (thus, his annual gift amounts only to a little more than one tenth of one percent of his value--that's the equivalent my donating $100/year) as the third richest man in American and fifth in the world.  

However, the Chronicle of Philanthropy only rates him #26.  He has a lot of making up to do.  Mark Zuckerberg (he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, to the left) was #1 last year, giving away nearly a billion dollars.  Ellison is 70 and his only real memorable legacy are his America Cup victories, especially the last one, which was indeed fabulous.  

So the simple solution is to ask him who he wants for athletic director.  If he chooses not to play, then, so much for that, go on to another billionaire.  There must be at least half a dozen with Hawaii ties.

But, say, for reasons that totally elude me, Larry Ellison decides he wants to make the UH great, not only in football and sailing, but also maybe even academically.  Then click on my three "agains" in the first paragraph.  Every necessary detail is provided.  Short of finding someone like Mr. Ellison, the University of Hawaii will continue to flounder at #168, which will be our national ranking in the next (2015) U.S. News and World Report Education report.

I'm looking at that publication, and the UH accepted 80% of applications.  Hmmm...we actually turned down 20%.  Stanford was number one again this past year at 5%, with Harvard at 5.9%, Yale at 6.3% and Princeton at 7.3%.  However, we are a state-funded university.  Just wait until we become great and watch our ratio improve to, say, 50%.   At least we have a better mascot than Stanford.  Actually, we have no mascot, and Stanford probably wishes it did not, too.

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