UH’s Mystery Sugar Bowl Guests

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - May 28, 2008
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The University of Hawaii, in yet another attempt to keep inane facts hidden as if national security depended on it, is sticking to its guns trying to keep secret some of the names of the reported 600 people who may have accompanied the football team to its Sugar Bowl shellacking by the Georgia Bulldogs. A list of such size is a non-issue to the football-mad denizens of Texas and the Southeast, but in a state with one of the country’s highest costs of living, nation-high gas prices, crappy roads and busted up schools, having a state agency dole out millions of dollars in gifts to a large, mysterious group of individuals strikes many as suspicious - if not illegal.

It’s clearly unethical, and makes you wonder how an institution requiring ethics classes for most professional majors and boasting philosophy courses into the 700s could miss the notion that having the state pony up for groupies and hangers-on to get a free ride on the state’s dime may be in contrast to the very ideas the school has designated as mandatory for most students.

The failure of the university is not in the number of those invited, but who was asked to join in on the free fun and in exactly what capacity did they merit inclusion. Then it can discuss how releasing the names would embolden terrorists while further eroding support for those in uniform.

With all the money that Ahahui Koa Anuenue has raised for the department over the years, no one would begrudge rewarding longtime members with just such a trip. The politically connected and appointed Board of Regents would be another smart investment and with only 10 members it would-n’t constitute an overwhelming cost. President David McClain and chancellor Virginia Hinshaw are naturals, and no one would think too much if former AD Herman Frazier passed along invites to his six assistants. Add to this the 103 players, coaches, graduate assistants and support personnel; the 23 cheerleaders, 24 dancers, 250 band members and their coaches or directors; nine training, equipment and medical staff personnel; six academic advisers; perhaps four sports information employees and the total traveling roster reaches 479 people if all 38 Koa Anuenue board members - who do not qualify in other areas - come along for the ride.

UH’s folly is not in the number of attendees nor in the names of the invited. Though an inspection of the list - which is to be released early next month - will offer an interesting look at who the university deems worthy and how many legitimate invites were passed over in favor of kids, girlfriends, political cronies and sideline ball handlers. The school’s biggest problem lies with its long-practiced, egotistical disregard for anyone outside of the conclaves of power that treats the public as unimportant outsiders and which seems more concerned with maintaining political advantage than making sound educational and monetary decisions. As a caveat to the complainers, the university has told staffers that their names can be kept off the list if they reimburse the school, but as of yet the school claims to be unable to produce an exact expense report or a complete list of everyone in attendance. In other words, business as usual. Trust us to run a billion-dollar university, but give us half a year to do basic math. No word has yet come from Linda Lingle’s office about the governor reimbursing the state for her travel to the game.

The fact that UH may have squandered thousands of dollars from the school’s biggest payday at the same time the athletic department is struggling to stay competitive with substandard facilities and low salaries for assistant coaches is disturbing enough. But when it’s added to the ongoing financial crisis at the school whose facilities are crumbling before our very eyes, such irresponsibility is contemptible.

Last week, new athletic director Jim Donovan announced that the program is facing a possible $1.7 million deficit for fiscal year 2009 which would be added to the $4.5 million of red ink already on the books - a number that could have largely been wiped off the books with some common-sense budgeting.

As the state’s largest institution of post-secondary education, the University of Hawaii has to be accountable to the community it serves. Hiding behind bull crap excuses and using state funds for personal rewards is an insult to the people who support the school through taxes, tuition and tickets. How long the leadership will continue to get away with such shoddy dealing remains to be seen. They are not going to resign or change their way of doing business until the ticket holders and taxpayers demand change.

Frazier is gone, but the insults linger.

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