POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 19, 2011
They close the books on the current fiscal year at the University of Hawaii in 11 days, which means the hunt for small change under and around the sofa cushions is on in the athletic department.
Nobody there is saying much about the early budget projections, a sure sign it is still touch and go whether the department will end up in the black for only the second time in a decade.
The thing is this might be UH's best chance to balance the books for a couple of years given the financial burdens soon to accompany the changing of conferences.
That is something for athletic director Jim Donovan and his bosses to keep in mind when contract talks progress with football coach Greg McMackin and men's basketball coach Gib Arnold these next few weeks.
Unless a windfall comes the department's way in these next 11 days or somebody steps up to help write the checks, it is hard to see how the school can afford to give Arnold much more than the 10 percent raise on his $240,000 base salary said to have been offered much less pay McMackin at the same $1.1 million rate if his contract is extended beyond its current 2012 expiration.
This time next year UH will likely be leaving $1 million or so on the table, the amount of what would have been its annual share of Western Athletic Conference disbursements, as its penalty for bolting for the Mountain West Conference and Big West on July 1, 2012.
Soon thereafter, UH will begin anteing up an estimated $1.2 million in annual travel subsidies to bring its conference opponents here, the price of MWC and Big West membership.
The hope is, of course, that the move to the MWC and Big West will both lift UH teams competitively and capture the imagination of ticket-buying fans, helping to balance the books.
But with more than $9 million in accumulated net deficit acquired over the past decade and the necessity of paying interest on it, UH has to do more than cross its fingers hoping for better days. It must also toe the bottom line and be creative about rising above it.
Which is why you increasingly hear UH administrators warming to the idea of heavy incentives for coaches' contracts and sense a growing reluctance to committing big bucks to up-front cash as it did in better times. When UH makes money, the theory holds, coaches will, too. Put more people in your stadium or arena and you reap the benefits, as you should.
For McMackin, that could mean a base salary of, say $700,000 with an incentive schedule tied to attendance, pay-per-view sales, record, bowl victories and national ranking. Hit some targets in those areas and getting back — or above — $1.1 million would be achieveable. But this way UH would be in a better position to afford it while growing the program.
Some UH peer schools have already gone that route with more likely to follow as contracts come up for renewal.
At UH the smart money will be in coming up with a solution that makes both dollars and sense for years to come.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.