We Can’t Afford Big-time Football
Wednesday - January 16, 2008
All right, enough already of Iowa and New Hampshire, of Obama and Clinton, of McCain and Huckabee and Romney.
Let’s get back to the local stuff — in this case, very unimportant local stuff, namely the departure of football coach June Jones for Dallas’s Southern Methodist University and the firing of UH Athletic Director Herman Frazier.
A little context is in order. Long before the football season began, sportswriters and football fans loudly complained about Frazier’s inability to put together a schedule. When he did complete it, they complained even more loudly because he did so with powderpuff Division II schools.
And the crowds at Aloha Stadium reflected the fans’ disappointment — 30,000 to 35,000 in attendance — seldom more. But as the football boys pummeled their opponents and the wins mounted in the admittedly weak Western Athletic Conference, the fanatics in the stands started screaming “BCS! BCS! BCS!”
When, in the final game of the season, the football team eeked out a victory against a weak PAC-10 opponent, the “BCS” roar became deafening.
Well, we got our “BCS!” But as almost everyone I’ve talked to who made the trip to New Orleans or watched the game on TV (as I did, every painful moment of it) will attest, we didn’t belong there. It was “boys among men,” as I’ve heard so many describe it.
So, less than a week after our ordeal in New Orleans, Jones rides out of town on an SMU mustang, his saddlebags full of cash. Behind the nag’s swishing tail, Frazier gets fired, legislators tour the soapless athletic facilities (some of them wringing their unsoaped hands), and UH president David McClain apologizes for the administration’s failure to keep Jones in the Manoa quarry.
Why? Hawaii ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of population. Four other states claim roughly the same number of residents: New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Idaho and Maine. Never have I heard the cry of “BCS!” come from the football faithful of New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Maine, and Boise State’s BCS appearance last year seems as much an aberration as Hawaii’s this year.
Nor have I read of any movements among the taxpayers of those states to pay head football coaches $1 million per annum, or $1.25 million, or $1.5 or — heaven help us — $2 million.
Hawaii boasts neither oil reserves nor gold mines, and so far as I know none of the University’s alumni is a Wal- Mart or Starbucks heir.
We can’t afford June Jones, and we’ve allowed our priorities to get very, very confused if we think we should have tried to match SMU’s $2 million offer.
What money we have and what anguish we expend should be directed not to the quarry, but along the upper campus’s mall, at our community colleges, and at Hilo and West Oahu.
Football coaches, like many university administrators, come, make their mark, then go on to bigger, more prestigious schools and larger paychecks. With luck, you get nine good years out of them, as the University of Hawaii did with June Jones. Seldom more, unless you’re a University of Alabama or a Georgia, a Michigan or a Texas.
The University of Hawaii is none of these. But along the campus mall in Manoa and on the system’s other campuses, the lawyers, doctors, engineers, businesspeople, teachers, nurses, chefs, bankers — you name it — who will advise, treat, build, teach, soothe, feed and counsel us for a couple generations to come are being educated.
They deserve the legislative hand-wringing, the additional millions of dollars and the continued, unwavering support of the friends of the University of Hawaii.
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