Highs And Woes With The Headlines

A cup of coffee and the morning Honolulu Star-Advertiser are not always a comforting combination. Such is particularly the case if the coffee’s bad or you are a patriot of the University of Hawaii and a taxpayer.

Consider, for a few MidWeek moments, last Thursday’s morning paper. The top left corner of the front page offered a lure to the “Today” section: “Hot Date,” it said in bold red caps, accompanied by a photo of a pretty girl in red, her hand on the shoulder of a handsome young man, who wore a red aloha shirt. “Fiery red fashions are perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.”

Ah yes, pretty girls in red, a little fiery themselves perhaps, a pleasant memory indeed for the elder demographic that reads the morning paper.

Eyes right, still at the top of Page 1: “Electric bills fall again, Oahu customers will see lowest rate in four years.” Read all about it in “Money,” B-5.

Nice. Nice. A little less pain in the household pocketbook. Let’s get to those pretty young people and the good news about electricity.

Oops. Didn’t move fast enough. The headline above the fold stops you; “CUTS COULD GO DEEP: A UH athletic department report is expected to project record deficits and propose serious impacts on programs,” accompanied by an illustration of a pair of scissors cutting the Hawaii saw-toothed “H” in half.

In short, more from Bad News Ben Jay, the outgoing Manoa athletic director.

Jay’s report, according to testimony at the Legislature, will tell of yet another year of multimillion-dollar athletic department deficits, the 11th such deficit in the last 13 years.

How much are we talking? We’re talking $4 million by the end of this fiscal year in June; $5 million projected for 2017.

So how might the university bring that spending under control? Jay’s report offers three options: “Eliminate men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and coed sailing” for a savings of $1.4 million. Why not? I’ve never gone to a UH swimming, diving or coed sailing competition in my life. Has anyone else?

But then again, what would a state that builds statues to Duke Kahanamoku and lives in and off oceans in a multitude of ways do without university swimming, diving and sailing teams. Send a terrible message, that’s what.

Option 2: “Eliminate men’s volleyball, women’s sailing and coed sailing” for a savings of a little over a half a mil. Almost chump change, but sure. I haven’t watched a men’s volleyball game in ages, in the Sheriff or on the tube. But then again, it’s been a winning program and a fair number of folks do watch it.

Option 3: “Eliminate football, women’s swimming and diving, and coed sailing,” for a net loss of $1.87 million.

Given reported football attendance over the past few seasons, I don’t understand how it’s making money for the athletic department. But Jay’s study says it does, and he argues that Hawaii fans would cease supporting university athletics if Division I football were cut.

Football fans certainly are the most rabid fans of all, as my son, my calabash nephews and my second-favorite retired Waipahu Intermediate School teacher constantly and loudly remind me.

That was just the front page. The ambiguities of rail funding, the dangers of vog and the Kealoha family feud followed.