Good Riddance, But What Now?
Wednesday - January 16, 2008
Several months ago I co-hosted a radio call-in show on 1420 AM. Invited on as a guest host, my job was to fill the three hours in the afternoon with provocative talk, opinion and interesting interviews about the world of local sports. It was nothing out of the ordinary, a part-time gig that I had done for a number of years.
But this day was extraordinary. The reason: The main topic I had chosen was Herman Frazier. Then embroiled in his inability to secure a final 13th game on the University of Hawaii football schedule, the now-former UH athletic director was a lightning rod when it came to opinions from local sports fans.
The phone lines lit up. About half the callers attacked Frazier while the other half defended him. My co-host and I argued and debated, taking opposite sides on the issue. It was great radio.
But not everyone wanted to hear it. About two hours into the broadcast, I received an off-air call from the program director, telling me that the station manager had received a complaint call from the University of Hawaii athletic department. The program director asked me to stop asking listeners what they thought about the athletic director. The next day, the station manager called me and told me my next two shows were cancelled.
I understood. 1420AM was the UH station. They wanted to protect their business partnership. Days later, I packed up my microphone and headed over to 1500AM, a station where opinions would not be quashed.
Ironically, the incident became a metaphor for the last couple of years of Frazier’s reign. Dubbed by Internet posters as “The Great Procrastinator,” the athletic director’s incompetence showed in so many ways: the scheduling fiasco, the soap-and-facilities fiasco, the basketball-coaching fiasco, the Sugar Bowl ticket fiasco and finally, the fiasco that broke the camel’s back - the inability to get contract negotiations going and the failure to re-sign June Jones to a contract after a wonderful nine years here, thus inexplicably losing him to SMU.
Ironically, we talked about a number of these very issues on that radio show - specifically, facilities, contracts, coaching hires, scheduling and the AD’s poor communication skills - but some people simply refused to hear it. That head-in-the-sand mentality is as much to blame for this debacle as Frazier’s obvious lack of ability to get his job done.
UH athletics is a concern for all of us - from the fans to the athletic department and its broadcasters to the faculty and the university administration to the state Legislature to the UH Board of Regents, all the way up to the governor’s office. Ironically, when I called several regents to discuss my concerns about the athletic administration, I was told that despite the many complaints they had received, the regents didn’t want to appear to be “micro-managing” the athletic department.
If the entire university system can learn anything from the Herman Frazier-June Jones affair, it’s that you have to listen with both ears and see with both eyes. And you can’t wait around until all the problems you’ve refused to talk about publicly - and refused to act upon - boil over.
I give credit to UH President David McClain for standing up and publicly apologizing for things “getting to this stage” on the day Jone’s departure was announced and Frazier’s firing became imminent. “That won’t happen again,” McClain said.
Let’s hope not.
Let’s hope the powers-that-be listen this time and make not only a strong hire for both football coach and athletic director, but also a quick and decisive hire for both jobs. Let’s hope the Legislature and the governor’s office step up and deliver on promises to improve facilities and conditions at the entire University of Hawaii.
The great fans and great athletes, along with all the students and faculty and people of this great state, deserve it.
That noise you hear isn’t coming from the radio. It’s coming from all over the state. It’s a sound that demands excellence and accountability. This time, let’s hear it and act on it!
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