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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Stevie Wonder, Hawaii’s athletic director and the case of the missing $200,000

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Jim Donovan (AP)

The bungling of a benefit concert billed as featuring singer Stevie Wonder may cost Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan his job.

Hawaii had to abruptly cancel the Aug. 18 concert this week after learning that Donovan booked the event through an unauthorized third party without the knowledge or consent of Wonder or his representatives. As a result, school officials placed Donovan and Sheriff Center manager Rich Sheriff on indefinite paid administrative leave Wednesday afternoon and launched an investigation into the now canceled concert.

The concert, which would have been held at the Stan Sheriff Center, was supposed to be a fundraiser for Hawaii's athletic department. Instead Hawaii officials said at a news conference Wednesday they will have to refund the 6,000 tickets already sold and seek FBI assistance to recover the $200,000 in athletic department funds sent to an outside party to set up the concert.

"I am angered and appalled and this is not going to happen at the University of Hawaii again," school president president M.R.C. Greenwood told reporters at the news conference.

What's unclear at this point is whether Donovan simply made an egregious mistake or if he's under suspicion of embezzling money. No Hawaii officials have made public accusations against Donovan, but it's certainly unusual for an athletic director to give away that much money without the consent of his superiors.

Either way, Donovan may not keep his job, which is a shame for Hawaii athletics because a lot of good things have happened under his watch. He nabbed Norm Chow to lead the football program and helped navigate Hawaii from the WAC to the Mountain West in football and the Big West in basketball and the other sports.

Hawaii vice president Rockne Freitas, a former assistant athletic director, will take over as interim athletic director for now. Once the investigation is complete, we'll find out if that's a temporary or permanent change.

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