POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 21, 2012
Full-speed ahead. That's the vibe I got from Ben Jay when he was finally introduced as the University of Hawaii's new athletic director on Thursday.
Now, yes, there is some grumbling from a few corners that he isn't starting officially until Jan. 14.
Folks want him on the clock ASAP.
Especially since it took UH so long to trot Jay out in front of the cameras, microphones and notebooks after word leaked on the mainland that he was selected for the job. Especially since it's been five months since UH had an AD without the word "acting" in front of it.
Actually, he's already begun part of the work … the part about restoring the confidence of what Jay likes to call Warrior Nation. He, like the rest of us, wants to put the strife of last summer behind us and build on lessons learned. Someone has taught him the word ohana; he might not know hooponopono yet, but Jay seems to have a grasp of the concept.
Today he sits down to breakfast with community leaders. As one observer commented, "That's when he'll start to get an idea of the push and pull."
While Jay spoke of a fresh start, he made it clear his gears don't include reverse.
And that's good to hear if you are a fan of UH sports remaining in Division I. He does not consider anything lower than FBS an option, and is passionate about positioning UH for the inevitable changes in the structure of college sports.
Big-time college sports.
"It's about where we will be, in Division I," he said. "We're not retrenching. This is a Division I-A program."
The idea of someday becoming part of a Pac-16 didn't come up in those words, but attaining membership in the West's most prominent conference has always been at least an unstated long-term goal for UH. To many it's an impossible, laughable dream … but perhaps worth aiming toward, anyway?
For the shorter term, balancing the budget and doing what it takes to get football turned around (Norm Chow's big JC recruits seem like a good start toward that end) should be primary goals.
On the first day, everyone passes the energy and passion test.
Jay also gets an early "A" for common sense: He said there's no way he'd ever come close to using those eight mainland trips per year UH offered for his wife and each of their three children. His wife, Ling, who he described as "the boss," would not allow it. Manoa chancellor Tom Apple said that perk was offered on the advice of the national search firm.
"We're really fortunate. We never thought we'd get someone (of Jay's stature) with a salary that starts with a ‘2,' " Apple said.
The salary is just a shade under $300,000 a year. If Jay can crush that $11 million debt he will prove more than worthy of it. But he's going to need help, and he's going to need time.
Almost exactly a year ago in the same room at the Stan Sheriff Center, the newly hired Chow got everyone fired up when he spoke at his big intro of chasing championships. As gauche as it might sound, a big part of Jay's job will be chasing checkbooks.
Like with Norm Chow a year ago, we should expect big things from Ben Jay. Hopefully we've all learned not to expect them overnight.
Reach Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-4783.