POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 22, 2010
Achieving a 10-win football season is supposed to be the hard part, not dealing with it.
Yet, the University of Hawaii's run toward an expected 10-3 regular-season finish — and the possibility of even an 11-3 close after the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl — figures to make things more challenging in the present economic situation.
While some marquee schools are announcing contract extensions or lucrative raises for coaches who are heading for double-digit victories, the financially strapped Warriors are facing a dilemma:
How to afford a reward for head coach Greg McMackin?
McMackin is completing the third year of a five-year contract as the state's highest-paid employee that paid $1.1 million per season before a 7 percent cut. He's also enjoying his most successful campaign to date. The resurgent Warriors can become only the sixth edition in school history to win 10 games if they prevail, as expected, over struggling New Mexico State and Nevada-Las Vegas. A bowl victory makes them only the fourth to hit 11 or more.
Moreover, McMackin has done his best job of overseeing the Warriors this year, giving coordinators Dave Aranda and Nick Rolovich the reins to produce highly successful and nationally ranked units on defense and offense, respectively. If the football team was at or under .500, it is doubtful the Mountain West Conference would be willing to negotiate a membership opportunity.
In better times there would be pats on the back — and a fat raise to go with it. But the financial condition of the athletic department, as an independent auditor's report noted this month, "continues to be very fragile."
The department is running an accumulated net deficit of $9.58 million built up over the past nine years and is pledged to getting into the black, pronto, after deficit finishes in eight of the past nine fiscal years.
The situation is further complicated by football attendance running parallel to last year, as a meager 30,011 through the turnstiles Saturday night illustrates. Moreover, pay-per-view revenues were trending down as much as 10 percent, according to what a Board of Regents audit committee was told recently.
Oh, and by the way, there will be ready moolah needed for Big West and MWC issues plus assistants to pay.
With a younger head coach, UH could add years to the deal and back-load a contract, but McMackin's age, 65, makes that a tougher proposition.
Athletic director Jim Donovan's modus operandi since taking over 2 1/2 years ago has been to incentivize contracts, a more fiscally responsible strategy that limits guaranteed money and pegs additional pay to financial and performance benchmarks.
To make it work financially for UH in McMackin's case, that might mean cutting his base significantly and linking additional money to incentives. That way if UH makes money, say in an attendance or PPV rise, he shares in it. Hit enough of them and, conceivably, McMackin could better his current take.
It is what Fresno State, a peer institution, will do with its head coach, Pat Hill. Hill is reported to receive approximately $1.1 million plus bonuses for the current season. But after Jan. 1, 2011, when the new deal kicks in, he will be guaranteed $645,000 with additional money tied to performance.
While this season promises to be one for the books at UH, the checkbook could be the one that counts most.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.