Hawaii AD: 'There is a very real possibility of football going away'

By Brandon Judd, Deseret News

Published: Tue, Aug. 19, 2014, 12:35 p.m. MDT

 Hawaii coach Norm Chow, right, waves to fans after Hawaii's 49-42 win over Army in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Honolulu.

Hawaii coach Norm Chow, right, waves to fans after Hawaii's 49-42 win over Army in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Honolulu.


University of Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay told members of the school's board of regents on Monday that financial concerns could jeopardize the future of athletics at Hawaii.

"There is a very real possibility of football going away," Jay told the board, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Jay said the university finished the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a $2.1 million deficit and estimates for next year project a $1.5 million deficit, the Advertiser reported. This comes from an athletic department that, according to Jay, has operated under a budget deficit 11 of the past 13 years.

This also comes less than two weeks after the NCAA ruled that Power 5 conferences will have greater autonomy in creating their own rules, including a potential provision that schools could provide cost-of-attendance stipends to student-athletes.

Hawaii's distance from the rest of the country helps add to the strain of balancing the school's athletic budget.

"UH is the only school in the nation that has to pay travel subsidies to teams that come to play us. That costs $1.5 million. We tried to level the playing field, provide some support," Rep. Mark Takai told KITV.

This comes seven years after Hawaii enjoyed its pinnacle season, going 12-0 during the regular season before losing 41-10 to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. But now, the Rainbow Warriors have gone 4-20 the past two seasons under coach Norm Chow, formerly an assistant coach at both BYU and Utah.

It's a ripple in the college football world that could impact the state of Utah. Utah State and Hawaii both play in the Mountain West Conference, and the Rainbow Warriors were once a longtime member of the Western Athletic Conference with BYU and Utah.

Additionally, Hawaii and BYU canceled a pair of future games in January 2013, according to the Associated Press. The Cougars and Rainbow Warriors played in 2011 and 2012, BYU's first two years of independence. BYU won both games.

Following the meeting, the Hawaii athletics department released this statement from Jay: "My comments at the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics meeting were made in order to convey a sense of urgency regarding the need to address our current funding model. In no way was I indicating that a decision on program reduction of any sport was under consideration. Rather, I was suggesting that the department's financial situation required that all possible scenarios be reviewed.

"Hopefully, going forward, there will be a priority placed on discussing the future financial needs of the UH Athletics Department. President David Lassner has expressed his support, and we'll call upon our many loyal stakeholders to help us ensure that we remain competitive within the future landscape of intercollegiate athletics. We owe that to our student-athletes and passionate fans."

Earlier this year, another Hawaii school with ties to Utah — BYU-Hawaii, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — made the decision to phase out its athletic program over the next three years.

"Following much discussion, more than 10 years of analysis, and consideration of several options, the decision has been made to phase out NCAA athletics at BYU–Hawaii over the next three years," said a press release posted March 28 on BYU-Hawaii's athletics Facebook page. "The money being spent on athletics programs will be used to provide educational opportunities for the increasing number of students from around the world who can be served by the university."

Email: bjudd@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd

1. taylormade1
Springville, UT,
Aug. 19, 2014

This is just the beginning of the new college football landscape. There is certain to be other state owned schools that are forced to drop their football programs that are currently operating in the red. Last report i saw showed 23-25 division 1 schools in the nation that actually operate in the black. Welcome to the new college football era !

2. Johnny Triumph
American Fork, UT,
Aug. 19, 2014

This will be the state of many Universities' athletic programs. It's going to get harder and harder to compete with the big boys when the money just isn't there.

3. Max-was-right
springville, UT,
Aug. 19, 2014

Pretty sad that a university has to eliminate sports and then a team like Utah can no longer go to bowl games.

4. taylormade1
Springville, UT,
Aug. 19, 2014

Once again Chris comments before he thinks. State owned schools football teams that operate in the red as well as consistently finish in the bottom of their conference are going to be the first real casualties to this new football era. What a great day to be a fan of a private school that has the resources to call its own shots !

5. Uncle Rico
Sandy, UT,
Aug. 19, 2014

The sky isn't falling for BYU. BYU has a large international following and plenty of money to do what it wants.
I look forward to your enthusiastic posts as your team loses every week.