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No easy answers for prep and UH money matters

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:43 a.m. HST, Apr 06, 2011



Dwight Toyama deserves a happy, peaceful retirement.

After all, here is a man who literally gave of himself to a stranger. In 2002, Toyama donated a kidney ... not to a family member or friend, but to the person needing it most.

That’s extreme, but in a way it’s how it is for all public servants — you give, for the public good.

As Toyama steps down from his post of executive director of the Oahu Interscholastic Association, I think back to a time when he was boss of the entire shebang for the state. He was the head of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association in the 1990s. That was when the HHSAA began soliciting sponsorship of its state championship events.

Last year, between the time Keith Amemiya resigned as HHSAA director and Christopher Chun replaced him, I asked Toyama if he considered a return. His answer was no, because he hated to ask people for money, and that’s what the job had become.

Unfortunately, that’s what it is now with almost all sports, including the OIA. Funding shortages threaten the very existence of interscholastic athletics, especially for the public schools. When I ran track at Pearl City in the 1970s, all I remember paying the school was $17 for a pair of spikes that lasted me three seasons and would’ve been much more expensive if I’d bought them on my own. In 2009 at the same school, expenses were so overwhelming the football coaches donated their pay back to the program.

If things don’t change soon, high school athletes (and their parents) face the very real possibility of paying to even be on a team — that is, if programs aren’t cut altogether.

The overriding principle for people in positions like Toyama’s always remains the same: Do right by the students. But because of rapidly expanding programs coinciding with increasing costs, creativity and fundraising became priorities. While the OIA’s reputation for lockstep voting on big issues puts forth an image of unity, it also signals a lack of progressiveness and imagination, whether true or not.

It was an impossible job to begin with for anyone, serving so many masters in a notoriously political environment. Toss in continuation of an institutional decades-long grudge against the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu — basically for what the public schools perceive as overzealous recruiting — and the impossible became the ridiculous.

The creation of the OIA Foundation and its endowment during Toyama’s watch is a good step toward improving the league’s finances, but is far from a panacea.

Toyama’s not the reason public school sports are short money and seemingly stuck in the past; that’s systemic and circumstantial. But his successor, whether it be interim director Raymond Fujino or someone else, needs to possess an entrepreneurial spirit and skill set rarely seen previously among the OIA leadership.

The status quo just won’t work anymore.

THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII athletic department has its own financial issues, including a nearly $10 million overall deficit of which we’re reminded in Ferd Lewis’ story today. However, an independent review of the program says UH athletics generates more than 80 percent of its own revenue and this compares favorably with conference peers who average 50 percent.

Last summer Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and athletic director Jim Donovan convinced the Board of Regents that charging the students an athletics fee was a good idea. Part of their reasoning was attending UH sports creates a positive feeling among the students that will pay dividends with donations in the future. That cash stream is already flowing from previous generations, but apparently not strongly enough.

Donovan’s mantra is that Rainbow, Warrior and Wahine teams are the entire state’s teams. This is true to some extent, at least for sports fans, because of the dearth of pro franchises in the islands. UH isn’t the only game in town for college sports, but it is clearly the dominant one.

It boils down to if the upper campus — and, by extension, the state — should forget about the $10 million, and subsidize the sports on a regular basis ... simply because these are Hawaii’s teams.

Good luck selling that one to Uncle Neil (even though he bleeds green) and the rest of the folks at the funny-shaped building. Don’t forget, it’s not just high school sports that are running out of money.

———

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his “Quick Reads” blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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