McMackin’s Millions; Guv’s Woes

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - December 14, 2011

Hawaii coach Greg McMackin announces his retirement Dec. 5 after a disappointing 6-7 season. AP photo/Jaymes Song

The operative analogy this final month of 2011 comes to us, as it usually does in December, from the world of football. It’s about quarters, and it applies to both a coach and a governor.

Let’s start with the coach. Greg McMackin ascended to the head coaching job at the University of Hawaii under both difficult and fortuitous circumstances. Less than two weeks prior to McMackin being named, Hawaii lost the nationally televised Sugar Bowl game to Georgia.

“Lost,” of course, doesn’t tell the story of that game. “Humiliated” may. The final score that New Year’s Day in New Orleans stood at 41-10, and anyone who watched it knew that Hawaii, undefeated and champion of the lowly Western Athletic Conference, didn’t belong on the same field with Georgia.

Before the breadth and depth of the carnage could be measured, UH head coach June Jones got out of town to accept megabucks at Southern Methodist University. Then, inexplicably in the minds of anyone who doesn’t bathe in the polluted waters of big-time college sports, the powers that be at Manoa offered Coach Mack a $120,000a-year man as defensive coordinator $1.1 million to become head coach.

Let me do the zeroes for you: $1,100,000. No elected official in city, state or federal office makes that kind of money in Hawaii. Neither does the university’s president nor its most respected researcher in any field.

Thanks to his status as the state’s highest-paid employee, McMackin carried a target on his back from the first quarter of his first game as head coach. The Warriors lost that one to Florida 56-10, and in subsequent years would by similar lopsided margins to Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

Two weeks ago, after a disappointing 6-7 season, McMackin coached his last quarter at the University of Hawaii. He relinquished $500,000 of his salary for his fifth contracted-for-butnot-coached year. But he still walked away with $600,000 for a year during which he will not be on the UH sidelines.

It should occur to someone in the Manoa chancellor’s office that we shouldn’t pay a man $1.1 million to coach any sport in these times or any other time, for that matter. Playing against the Notre Dames, Floridas and Wisconsins of the athletic world isn’t within either our abilities to recruit talented young men to come to Hawaii or our budgets.

(June Jones was about to walk away from $1.8 million at SMU last week to make even more at Arizona State, until ASU backed out at the last minute over “character” issues.)

Now to the governor. A recent poll gave Gov. Neil Abercrombie a 30 percent approval rating after less than a year in office. Several of my colleagues in the scribbling trades have dinged him for a lack of transparency in his administration, a rash tongue, poor relations with legislators and union leaders, and so on and so on and so on. He’s even taken swipes for blaming his woes on the previous administration (a universal political practice) and taking his wife to Paris for their anniversary (a cheap shot, that one).

All are grievous sins, and in the next poll and certainly in the next election, Abercrombie will have to answer for them. But the governor, a former college lineman, says he plays “all four quarters.” That he must, but he’d best recognize that it’s a team sport and requires poise in the pocket by the quarterback poise, and a civil tongue in the huddle, not a necessity for a lonesome end, out of sight and out of mind, in distant Washington, D.C.

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