POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 12, 2010
Now that the University of Hawaii has found new conference homes for its teams, it's time to move on to the next agenda item.
No, not picking a new soccer coach, although rumblings indicate that will happen real soon.
The priority now is to extend football coach Greg McMackin's contract. Yes ... the same Greg McMackin whose salary we've often questioned — especially last year when the Warriors lost six games in a row during the middle of the season.
But UH is 14-4 since then, and that's just one of the reasons why UH should extend McMackin's contract immediately — with some key restructuring, though.
The current pact, crafted in 2008 when McMackin replaced June Jones, is a thing of beauty for the coach. He gets $1.1 million per year (not including a voluntary 7 percent pay cut last year), and there's no buyout provision. The deal goes through the 2012 season.
When the Warriors were at their lowest point last year, McMackin was the butt of jokes, and detractors created a Facebook page calling for his firing. From many corners — including this one — UH was criticized for paying so much money to a coach who had never been the head man before at the Division I level, was losing games, and had committed a major verbal mistake during the WAC media preview.
NOW, A YEAR later, no one's talking about firing McMackin. That's what a 10-win season, conference championship and getting into a bowl game will do for you.
McMackin also deserves plaudits for acing the most important test: All 28 of the Warriors seniors are on course to graduate (actually, six already have) by the end of the school year.
When he was hired, he stated three goals: win conference championships, get into bowl games, and graduate everyone. All were met this year.
Also, if UH football had not enjoyed success this season, the Mountain West would not have invited Hawaii to join.
The question now: How do you reward McMackin when simple economics dictate you can't even afford to pay him what he's already getting? That's a tough one. Maybe a couple more years of job (or at least pay) security as he heads toward 70.
THE MAIN REASON McMackin's contract should be extended immediately is a practical one.
Rival coaches going after the same prospects will point out that McMackin's contract is up in two years. They'll say that means if the kid goes to Hawaii he'll have to eventually deal with a new coaching staff that might not love him as much as the guy recruiting him for UH says he does now.
Coaches on the recruiting trail need to be able to convince parents that they'll be at the school as long as their sons will.
Of course, the reality is that's never a given and longevity is a rarity. McMackin's situation is case-in-point of how quickly today's college coaches can go from hero to zero and back to hero again.
UH can't afford a long-term contract for McMackin that includes a pay raise. But a two-year contract extension — which includes a buyout clause that wouldn't force UH to pay him at full salary if the wheels fall off and a change is made — is the right move.
As for a pay cut for an employee who achieved all his stated goals? Well, UH finds itself in a corner now because it panicked when Jones left and paid too much. That isn't McMackin's fault.
You may be among those who can never agree with a college football coach getting paid as much as he does, or just this particular one. But Greg McMackin earned it this year, and the contract extension is appropriate and necessary ... for the good of the program.
Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.