A Bit Of History For The New A.D.

Ben Jay, newly appointed athletic director at the UH, is taking over a program run by gossip and political connections. Before he even starts work in the lower campus, he is getting advice on what the department needs more than anything else – money.

I have a few suggestions about how the UH athletics got in the straits it finds itself.

In 1960, the football program was dealt a “death sentence” by the NCAA for playing athletes who were not taking more than nine credits. That means a program running with part-time student-athletes. So the program went down to “club” status, which is as low as you can go.

UH supporters and administration decided to start from the bottom and played football at the lowest level with a great bunch of coaches and administrators. For the next three years, 1960-’62, coach Jimmy Asato and some of his friends played a few small schools, augmented by a few low club teams and a few military teams from Kaneohe Marine station.

Then something happened. A new athletic director surfaced, Young Suk Ko. He was affiliated with the YMCA and brought over several friends to help manage the administrative side of the new department. Jack Bonham handled the finances and operations.

After several years of surviving on nothing, there was a clamor to get back into the graces of the NCAA. Ko enlisted the services of pro and college Hall of Fame coach Clark Shaughnessy to come up with a plan and present it to then-Gov. John Burns. Shaugnhessy was 74, and the governor liked him immediately.

Shaughnessy recommended several key factors in designing an athletic program. First, that UH play schools that represent states similar to Hawaii. For that reason he chose the Western Athletic Conference. Second, that the schools we play have the same academic entrance level as the UH. Third on his list was building a stadium that would be a pillar of the state’s commitment to its athletic program, and when filled with supporters would provide the financial backbone of the athletic program.

If the UH athletic program is to survive in NCAA or any conference, one of its major objectives is to sell out the venues for football, basketball, baseball and any other programs it has. To date, it has not done that. Let’s face it, signing “body bag” games against USC, Nebraska and the like is not the way to balance a budget. What the public wants and what has worked over the years is to win against admirable competition.

Changing conferences every five years is not a way to succeed. First, you have to pay them to come over, and second, they use the trip to recruit our better players and return home to beat us.

I know, this is old news. But when we hire new administrators, they always want to change things. The latest one is hard to believe, “Should UH be playing in Division 1 football?”

Young Suk Ko answered that question a long time ago. Let’s move on.