A few months back we had the sad and all-too-real story of Hawaii launching a crowd-funding effort to raise $10,000 for its enormous travel budget. Thanks to a system where Hawaii pays not only to travel to the mainland dozens of times a year, but also a portion of its competition’s bill to visit them on the islands, the school spends an NCAA-leading $5.6 million a year on travel alone.
That’s too much to spend for a program that very recently had trouble keeping the lights on. Unfortunately, that isn’t a metaphor.
Projecting a budget shortfall ranging from $1.5 million to $3 million, athletics director Ben Jay told a Board of Regents gathering Monday that the possibility of dropping football may soon have to become a sad reality. “There’s a very real possibility of football going away,” Jay said. Hawaii has faced a budget deficit during 11 of the past 13 years, and even the surprising run to the Sugar Bowl following the 2007 season failed to make a permanent dent in the Warriors’ finances.
Later Monday, Jay clarified his statement.
“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,” Jay said in a statement.
“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.”
Here’s hoping his second statement is a more accurate depiction of the situation than the first. Though Hawaii has struggled on the field of late, college football would not be the same without Hawaii.