A Secretive Athletic Director Search

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 27, 2008
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The history of UH athletic directors like the mist in Manoa Valley on a rainy day. It’s not heavy enough to drench a jacket, not thick enough to impair a driver’s vision or make the evening news.

About all it is guaranteed to do is create a beautiful rainbow and let it grace the valley all the way to the lower campus road.

Oddly enough, the “Manoa Mist” is doing something else these days. It is a good backdrop to the secretive selection of UH’‘s next athletic director.

Actually, it’s not that secretive, because they announced the chair of the committee and it’s hand-picked members. There are nine of them and they are all highly qualified to serve on the selection committee.

If you analyze the composition of the committee you can, more often than not, figure out who they will select when they finally make a decision. In the case of the selection committee that picked the new football coach, everyone knew at least one week in advance who the selection would be before it was formerly announced to the public.

The record would show convincing evidence that on a university campus things happen in reverse of what they preach in the text books.

University officials usually decide who they want in the position and then select the members of the committee before they advertise for the position. The reason for that is to make sure the person they really want is the only one with that special skill or attribute needed for selection. Like, “Does the applicant have five years experience managing a stadium.” It’s probably better that way, because the committee will have an excuse for the selection if it doesn’t make all the power brokers happy.

The next thing in the process is to make sure the number of committee members is an odd number so there are no ties. There was a time when all UH appointments were choreographed by the person selected as chair of the committee. In the present scenario, the newly appointed chancellor appointed herself chair and then selected the rest of the committee. This is pretty scary, because in UH politics there aren’t many members on the committee who would vote against the wishes of the new chancellor.

A long time ago, UH used to combine the athletic director’s job with a coaching position. The idea was to save money and insure that the sport the AD was coaching was funded adequately by the AD’s office. This was a good deal for a football coach asking himself for more maintenance money, improved facilities or an easier schedule. The last AD/coach at UH was Hank Vasconcelles. After his football team upset Nebraska in Lincoln in 1957, he decided to put Army and Oklahoma on the schedule - and was released!

In looking at the selection committee’s credentials and under the chancellor’s cowboy hat, you wonder if the new football coach will be asked secretly whom he would like to be AD. Without a supportive AD, the football and basketball coaches future will be blurred at best.

I’ve been observing the UH hire and fire athletic directors and coaches since 1950. Probably the biggest change over the years is that today the UH president doesn’t get involved with the process publicly. He delegates the responsibility to his chancellor. If she picks the incorrect candidate, the president’s wisdom and office is not tarnished.

So the big question is, “Who’s going to be the next UH athletic director?”

Simply put, it’s not going to be who you think. A little hint: the chancellor has at least four of the votes on the committee in her back pocket. The votes that she doesn’t have can all be pretty sure they will never be asked to serve on another UH selection committee. She will choose someone she trusts and has a working relationship with. Let’s face it, would you hire someone you didn’t have a working relationship with or trust?

Said another way, if you are deciding to meet with the chancellor’s people, you would be better off wearing a cowboy hat rather than a haku lei.

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