The Community Value Of UH Sports

Now that the nickname debate has been settled in favor of Rainbow Warriors for men’s teams and Rainbow Wahine for the women, one hopes we can move to some of the more consequential issues confronting UH athletics. The goal of having the program down to two names is still satisfied, and those who felt an emotional attachment to the Rainbow identity have been mollified.

So now is as good a time as any to have a serious discussion about where UH athletics fits into our community and into the university mission. Almost everyone seems convinced that having a top-notch state research university is worthy of financial support from the state; that consensus has some fissures when it comes to athletics. At many state universities, shortfalls in athletics are made up by either state subsidies or subsidies from the university’s general funds. We see it in municipalities that have professional sports, as well, where citizens subsidize the building of arenas and stadiums because they believe it is good for the community economically and socially.

It is easy to make that case for UH athletics. When UH went undefeated in football in 2007 and earned an invitation to the Sugar Bowl, you couldn’t walk on a downtown street or into a restaurant or church without feeling the pride people had in their team. The team dominated conversation. And people on the Mainland became very aware of the University of Hawaii.

Athletics has been called the front porch of a university and it clearly was that then and can be in the future. But it is expensive to do at a high level. Is it worth having the state contribute to the cause? It is not too soon to decide where we want UH to be and how we’re going to pay for it.

* We hear constantly about two young baseball players in Washington Nationals right-fielder Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout, and deservedly so. They both are uber competitive, field their positions well and hit for both average and power.

But how do we leave Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado out of this conversation? He is outhitting his fellow 20-year-olds and is playing a beautiful third base despite coming up as a shortstop. Maybe the hot corner is not as sexy a position as the outfield, where it’s easier to make the ESPN highlights. But watching the reckless abandon that Trout and Harper show in crashing into outfield walls, maybe Machado will spend less of his career on the DL. But, from now on, when people talk about the Dynamic Duo, I’m going to amend that to the Transcendent Trio.

* Glad to see Rainbow Wahine softball coach Bob Coolen get acknowledged as the Big West Coach of the Year. He quietly has built the softball program into a powerhouse, with six players earning first-team All Big West honors. When they talk about raises at UH, Coolen has got to be near the top of the list.