Stephen Tsai: UH athletics needs to check these off its to-do list

Jan. 24—Enjoying the new years—calendar and lunar ?


Enjoying the new years—calendar and lunar ?


Now let's get to work. Here's the to-do list :—Hire a University of Hawaii athletic director.

Yes, David Matlin, who announced he would not seek a renewal after his contract expires in April, will keep working through June 2. And while it is commendable Matlin will work tirelessly, as always, until the whistle, and it is economically feasible for UH not to have two ADs on the same payroll, a succession plan needs to be triggered.

There are certain jobs in which the baton can be passed easily. This job is not one of them. UH is dealing with conference realignments, an NIL race it badly trails, competitive inequities in facilities and funding, and testy lawmakers who are distributing allowances at 1995 rates.

Among the AD's duties are to schmooze the Legislature, make buddy-buddy with the regents, convince businesses and donors to dig a little bit deeper, maintain strong ties with the Mountain West and Big West, hire and retain good coaches, and make sure the utility bills are paid and the checks don't bounce.

UH could start by impaneling a search committee, although that has not always worked out according to the blueprint. In 2002, a committee was prepared to recommend former UH coach Dick Tomey for the AD's job. But UH president Evan Dobelle decided to go with his own pick—Olympic gold medalist Herman Frazier. "I tried, " Tomey said in 2005. "But I really didn't have ... you know, ultimately, I didn't have a chance."

In January 2008, UH and Frazier parted ways with two years remaining on his contract.

In 2015, a former UH football player /coach who also ran successful media companies was not offered an interview for the then-vacant AD job. That candidate is now Honolulu's mayor.

There is support for three possible candidates to succeed Matlin : former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association ; Keith Amemiya, executive director of the Central Pacific Bank Foundation who was the executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and executive director of UH's Board of Regents ; and George Killebrew, a Punahou School graduate who is commissioner of Major League Rugby and spent 27 years as executive vice president and chief revenue officer of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. Former UH associate athletic director John McNamara and Jarinn Akana, a former UH basketball star and agent with Dynasty Sports Management, also are considered worthy possible candidates. With Matlin available for guidance in the transition, it would make sense to begin the process sooner than later.—Extend the football coach's contract.

Maybe it's crazy to discuss a contract extension coming off Timmy Chang's inaugural 3-10 season. But it also was crazy how Chang had to assemble a staff—and re-assemble a team—three weeks ahead of signing day while losing key players (including all three captains ) to the transfer portal, and making the most of an underfunded budget and makeshift stadium. But Chang succeeded in building morale, fostering community support, and making the Rainbow Warriors competitive.

Chang has spent the offseason recruiting, meeting with lawmakers and business leaders, planning fundraising strategies, and installing a run-and-shoot offense that he will call.

Chang's four-year contract runs through Jan. 22, 2026. Aloha Stadium's replacement is supposed to be ready in 2027. Chang deserves assurances he will lead a team in a new stadium.—Keep nagging.

The folks in charge of expanding Ching Complex's seating capacity and replacing a yet-to-be-demolished Aloha Stadium made pinkie-swear promises to meet the construction deadlines. For Ching, that is this summer ahead of the football team's Sept. 1 home opener against Stanford. For the Halawa site, it will be in time for the 2027 season.

But who better knows the difference between promising to be on time and being on time ? Every. Single. Parent. My three kids are four years apart, which meant for 21 years I'd turn on their room lights at 6 :05, and clap along to the "wake-up, wake-up " song while they wiped the makapiapia from the stink eyes they were giving me.

The stadium also need to be pestered. For the sake of recruiting, fan hospitality and ticket sales, UH needs to show progress toward Ching's expansion. Maybe a progression graphic, like an airplane flight's tracker, in which a football icon could be used to show the real-time status toward a project's completion ?

It never hurts to periodically ask project managers : "How's it going ?" Clapping is optional.